Internet access while biking cross-country
December 3, 2005 8:19 PM   Subscribe

I'm taking three months this summer to bike cross-country with my father. Is there any way for us to have (reasonably) uninterrupted wireless internet on the route?

A quick look shows that, if we were traveling on the main highways, GPRS data service from Cingular or T-Mobile would do the trick. But for much of the time, we'll be running parallel to, but not on the main interstate highways (examples here and here). I'd thought about signing up for the T-Mobile Hotspot service as well, but the same problem applies. Shockingly, there aren't enough Starbucks, Borders, Hyatts and Kinkos in the small towns to give us regular opportunities to access the web. We could get a Blackberry, maybe, but I want to be able to send images to my Flickr account and to be able to upload data from my Mac via ftp. Is there anything we can do, short of dialup on a satellite phone?
posted by felix betachat to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (7 answers total)
Your best bet might be Verizon Wireless' EVDO solution. Their coverage map shows that it hits most of the major metropolitan areas, with Verizon's NationalAccess not-so-broadband service available elsewhere.

EVDO is as close to broadband as you're going to get, with speeds around 300-500 kbps, so it's perfect for your picture uploading, blogging and emailing. Since the regular NationalAccess takes over when you're out of range of the Broadband metro areas, you'll find it pretty accessible. It's about $60/month for unlimited access, and you'll need to buy the PCMCIA Access Card, which I highly encourage you to purchase outside of Verizon. (Pay attention to contract requirements, even on those eBay auctions.)

Just make sure the coverage map jives with where you're looking to go, and keep in mind that EVDO is leaps and bounds faster than the frustratingly slow GPRS.

Enjoy, and have a fun trip!
posted by disillusioned at 10:02 PM on December 3, 2005

Stanley Cline is a guy here in Atlanta who does an incredible job of collated all sorts of wireless service data, hanging out on forums answering questions, etc. His website at (or , same thing) has a huge amount of current information about wireless service in the southeast U.S. I happened to be looking at his site yesterday,

He has links to similar regional sites around the country, so with that you might be able to cobble together enough information to make a decision.

He seems to agree that Verizon has the best laptop/PDA/"tethered" data service right now.
posted by intermod at 10:41 PM on December 3, 2005

I would suggest a t-mobile phone with a GPRS account. It's only $19 a month for unlimited data, though it only goes about 19.2kbps (so slower than even a 28.8 modem). On the plus side, anywhere a t-mobile phone works, you have a connection, and you can use the phone as a wireless modem with any PC laptop or powerbook/ibook that has bluetooth.
posted by mathowie at 11:43 PM on December 3, 2005

On the plus side, anywhere a t-mobile phone works, you have a connection

This turns out not to be completely true. If you're roaming onto someone else's network, your GPRS Internet might not work. Also, you might find yourself somewhere the equipment simply doesn't do GPRS. This happened to me for one reason or another the majority of the week I was in Utah. Salt Lake, no problem. Moab, no way.

Personally, I would advise mooching off hotels' wireless Internet. Even in Moab I found that most of the motels had it, along with a coffee shop and a game shop.
posted by kindall at 12:31 AM on December 4, 2005

Sounds like a great trip. As a backup, remember that even the smallest small town library is likely to have free (might even be high speed) internet service.

Caution - broad generalization follows: Folks in small towns are likely to be nice and interested in a father and son travelling cross country by bike.
posted by fixedgear at 4:35 AM on December 4, 2005

Another vote for the Verizon Edge Service (sprint is going to be doing this same thing this year.) Edge is like around 230k/sec.....

But as I understand, it's only in the major cities, not in little highway offshoots. Make sure it works there first.

I have used Sprint's regular phones with their + vision plans. Gives me the best speed/coverage (~2x 56k)

Last, A bluetooth blackberry, would allow you to email, and use the phone as a modem to your mac, with whoever's service.
posted by filmgeek at 6:01 AM on December 4, 2005

We have just started with Verizons service in the past few months, but I am happy with it. We live/travel full time in our RV and so far haven't found any spots without coverage. Even when it's slow it's not as bad as dial up.
It gets cheaper if you get a Verison phone...and they are the only folks that we found that had a card for Macs.
Good Luck!
posted by what-i-found at 8:19 PM on December 4, 2005

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