Ask Leo: How should I stay connected while traveling?


By Leo Notenboom

Mobile connectivity has improved dramatically in recent years. I’ll
cover the big options for the traveling internet user.


Where hotels used to offer only what they labeled as “data ports” that you
could plug your modem into, it’s now not uncommon for them to offer in-room
high speed internet or Wi-Fi for an additional charge.

My experience with these hotel systems has been spotty. When they work,
they’re wonderful, especially those that provide hardwired ethernet
connections. Quite often those are connected with nice fat pipes to the internet,
and will reach speeds exceeding most alternatives. Sadly, most of the time
things have been less than smooth. Problems have included authentication and
payment technology that just doesn’t work or forgets that I’ve paid, and
wireless access points that are too far away to actually reach my room. The
worst offense, in my opinion, are those systems that intercept all outgoing
mail, route it through their own server, and then restrict the number of
outgoing messages that I can send in a day. For an email-driven mobile
lifestyle or business style, that’s simply unacceptable.


Speaking of Wi-Fi, hotspots are everywhere if you have a wireless-capable
device. Grab an account with T-Mobile, for example, and you have access at
thousands of hotspots across the country masquerading as the Starbucks stores
you see on almost every corner. Other networks of hotspots exist as well, but
the network at Starbucks seems the most ubiquitous. Once nice thing is that
with most you may not have to sign up for a plan, but can often pay for a day
or a week’s worth of access. Naturally, if you plan to use these networks a
lot, the plans are more cost effective but for those “connectivity
emergencies”, a 24 hour pass can really save the day.

There are also more and more free hotspots out there. Quite often you’ll
find them at libraries and occasionally shopping malls, government facilities,
and more. There are several online resources that can help you find free
hotspots – I was able to find several near me using this free hotspot directory. The directories are often out of
date, so don’t limit yourself – check around as new hotspots are appearing all
the time.

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