Internet & voice connectivity in Venice
January 4, 2006 2:10 PM   Subscribe

Best way(s) for a freelancer to be connected (voice, internet) for a working month in Venice?

A friend, who is a freelance copywriter, will be going to Venice for the month of March. She can only do it if she keeps working the whole time, to defray costs. She's got a new WiFi equipped laptop, but is concerned about her ability to be connected all day long. She wanted to sign up for a mobile (i.e., wirless phone) broadband service, but I suggested she hold off.

She will need to check email very often during the day, and will need to make long phone calls back to the states to do interviews and participate in meetings.

So the question is, what are the best options for voice or internet connectivity in Venice? Cost is a factor.
posted by lodurr to Travel & Transportation around Venice, Italy (14 answers total)
She could rent an apartment that has broadband ??
posted by k8t at 2:24 PM on January 4, 2006

For a phone, an unlocked GSM phone can use a local SIM card. That will probably give the best rates - roaming rates are horrific.

Her best bet is to find free WiFi access, as some european locations can charge a lot for wireless access. alternately, buying a whole day or week at a time is the most cost-effective route to go.

Here's one list of wifi hotspots in venice.

3G mobile phone internet access is usually expensive and they may charge by the megabyte, which could seriously add up. Paying for Wifi is still a lot cheaper.
posted by GuyZero at 2:25 PM on January 4, 2006

Does anyone have any ideas about how to find hotspots that aren't listed on the standard directories? There are hardly any, apparently.
posted by lodurr at 4:40 PM on January 4, 2006

Grrrr.... just lost my post about using universities. They'll have wi-fi. But I think that they're not ideal. It would be hard to camp out at a university lab / coffee shop / etc. (as a non-affiliated student or guest) and just start jabbering to the US. I'm also afraid that internet cafes and university labs would all close at some point in the evening that might be too early for your friend (6 hrs earlier than the east coast).
posted by zpousman at 6:40 PM on January 4, 2006

The rent-an-apartment-with-broadband idea would probably be the best solution if it is at all possible. Before she leaves for Venice she can sign up for a VOIP phone service here and take the adapter (and a US phone, natch) with her. Preferably pick a VOIP provider that has a nice trial period so she won't be stuck with paying a disconnect fee (Vonage hits you with $40 if you have the service for less than a year -- SunRocket is one that doesn't). This also allows her to have a US phone number, which her employers/clients will probably appreciate.
posted by kindall at 6:57 PM on January 4, 2006

She's already made an agreement with the landlord she had there on her last trip, so unless he's got broadband, that's a non-starter.

One idea I had was to persuade him to get broadband. How expensive is it, and does anyone have a sense for whether it would be perceived as a value-add for people renting apartments by the week or month in Venice?
posted by lodurr at 7:02 PM on January 4, 2006

I worked briefly in Italy last November and had some trouble due to a new antiterrorism law...some of the hotels that previously offered free wireless access, no longer did--or it was limited. Might be good to further research because the law was new and there seemed to be some confusion about it. Here's an article that mentions it with regard to Internet cafes...
posted by dinah at 9:10 PM on January 4, 2006

Italy's anti-terrorism law mentioned by dinah is a pain in the arse - WiFi had only just started to become a popular means of Internet access when they passed this stupid law.

Basically speaking, the owner of the WiFi connection is responsible for anybody who uses the connection. Considering the other shite passed in the same law, I've long since ditched my plans for purchasing a WiFi router at home. (Another thing to remember when considering WiFi is that the older Italian houses can have some very thick walls.)

Internet cafes and hotels with Internet access will (or rather should) ask for your passport before letting you have access.

This is Telecom Italia's roaming WiFi plan and a list of hot spots in the Veneto province. Pretty much all hotels. I'm curious as to how many of them still have the WiFi active after this law. If they still have access, I'd bring my passport along just in case.

If the apartment has a phone line already, you (or rather, the landlord) should be able to get ADSL with a minimum of hassle. Stick with Telecom Italia as they still have the monopoly on the physical lines. Their Alice Mia package are for Internet & voice connectivity.

I personally would think that it would add value to the apartments, but it might be difficult for the landlord to control phone/Internet costs as bills come every 2 months. I would imagine they would have to install some type of monitoring software to be able to accurately charge or cap use.

YMMV - I'm in Rome and the Northerners tend to be a bit more organised then us ;)
posted by romakimmy at 2:49 AM on January 5, 2006

Low traffic topic, so I'm guessing that's all I'm going to get. Anybody seeing this before March, though, please feel free to add on. I was hoping for more, but this is kind of esoteric, so thanks all for what you could provide. Stuff here for her to be going forward with.
posted by lodurr at 7:02 AM on January 5, 2006

Lodurr, your post has been up for less that 24 hours and in my opinion it contains exactly the advice you need:

1. Get a VOIP account to take and use abroad.
2. Make sure to rent an apartment that has broadband access.

Not hard.
posted by Mo Nickels at 7:58 AM on January 5, 2006

Not complaining, Mo, just doing a little wishful thinking. Anyway, the "apartment with broadband" solution is really a non-solution, AFASIC. She gets a great deal on the place she rents; her analysis is that the extra cost of a place with broadband would probably be at least as great as the cost of using 3G or something like it. She's also convinced that apartments with broadband would be hard to find (as she put it, "nobody has a land line in Venice", and she'd probably know, having just spent almost two months there).
posted by lodurr at 9:09 AM on January 5, 2006

I'm not sure what other information your friend is looking for lodurr, but we just don't have a huge range of options here.

Telecomunications were, in theory, deregulated around 4-5 years ago (IIRC) but Telecom retains the monopoly on physical lines for the most part. Switching to another provider sents you into Dante's rarely mentioned 10th level of Hell - Italian Red Tape.

Infrastructure for ASDL took a bloody long 2 years to propregate (in Rome, during which time they would still sell you the subscription even though it didn't work in your area yet...) WiFi's progress has now slowed to a crawl.

UMTS or GPRS connections via a cell phone have ridiculous monthly/daily caps after which you pay a nice chunk of change per kilobyte and you mentioned cost is a factor. Most of these offers require a minimum of a year's use. And international calls on a cell are far more expensive than a physical line.

Your friend wouldn't be able to get a physical line/activate a subscription on her own as she doesn't have a codice fiscale (Italian tax number) so the landlord would have to do it. And he may not want to due to the aforementioned anti-terrorism law and/or cost control.

Add to this the anti-terrorism law, and I'm afraid your friend's options are very, very limited.
posted by romakimmy at 9:24 AM on January 5, 2006

Nope, that's fine -- I just didn't believe that they'd be that limited. Thanks for chipping in. I think the information is still valuable, just not in the way that I'd hoped it would be.
posted by lodurr at 9:27 AM on January 5, 2006

... OK, followup time. My friend was off doing her own research all this time, and stumbled on They're an international dialup provider. She thought they were pretty cool; I didn't see the point.

Anyway, she ignored me and hounded them with questions about Venice in particular, and got a message back directly from the President of the company. He hails from Padua. He told her he'd founded the company specifically because he couldn't find a good way to connect wirelessly in Padua and Venice. (Most frustratingly, he could apparently sit in the middle of St Marks Square and detect a slew of signals, none of them from open networks.)

He explained to her how to use a GSM phone to connect via a local call. Not as fast as broadband, but much cheaper than any other options. (Plus, they have some kind of funky server-side acceleration that makes it seem faster than it normally would.)

Overall, it will be much cheaper than trying to do broadband. And if she needs to transfer a large file, there's a business center with broadband where she can take the laptop.

That still leaves her with a problem for international voice calls, but at least it solves the net connectivity issue.
posted by lodurr at 1:52 PM on January 6, 2006

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