World Wide What?
June 8, 2004 12:17 PM   Subscribe

Travelling with high speed internet?

I have a friend who's going to be taking a correspondence course that features online streaming video this summer. That's fine but she's also planning a road trip across the US while the course is on.

She wants to know if there's an easy, inexpensive way to access high speed Internet in each city she visits to keep up with the class.

She does have a fairly new laptop with wireless capability.
She won't be staying in hotels that have high speed hook-ups and doesn't want the expense of internet cafes.

She's also not very computer literate so the easier the solution, the better. Being able to plug in her computer to a telephone jack in every hotel room (Super 8-type motels) and have it automatically find the Internet with a minimum of fuss would be ideal.

Is this possible? I was going to recommend something like AOL since a lot of people who travel use it for the local dial-up numbers, etc. But do they offer something similar for people travelling with high speed needs? Or is there something else out there?

Thanks in advance...
posted by Jaybo to Computers & Internet (10 answers total)
You don't get high speed from dialup lines.

Look into high speed internet via direct tv. I know almost nothing about it except that you can get it and you could probably get it from about anywhere. You'd have to at least drag a dish around with you though, probably not all that easy.

Libraries often have free decent internet connections. Starbucks and some other outfits (McDonalds etc) offer free or reasonably cheap wi-fi access. Sprint and T-mobil offer monthly plans (don't know too much about it except that as I recall it was around $30/mo) but you have to find places that have the service. Every airport I've been in has such services.
posted by RustyBrooks at 12:31 PM on June 8, 2004

Starbucks...offer[s] free or reasonably cheap wi-fi access.

Seconded. I would never pay $30/month for more than a couple of months (just to get me by). Or get a day pass for $5-6. I'm not sure of any other national Wi-Fi networks that are as consistently found as T-Mobile. From their website:

T-Mobile HotSpot offers thousands of locations nationwide in places you already go like Starbucks coffeehouses, Borders Books & Music stores, Kinko's, airports, and the airline clubs of American®, Delta, United®, and US Airways®.
posted by BlueTrain at 12:47 PM on June 8, 2004

Our office is buying gobs of the Sprint and AT&T aircards. AT&T's network is more widespread than Sprint's, and faster.

The only problem we've had is in tall office buildings, basements and other places where cell phone coverage is sketchy. For your friend's purpose they should work.

The upload speed is terrible (slightly better than dialup maybe?) but the download speed falls Alsopretty much between dialup and broadband. It'd definitely be her best bet.

The cards were $250 (waived on signup) and $70 a month I believe for "unlimited", which is way better than metering. I've heard Sprint doesn't know how to meter correctly if you want to try to cheat them, but I have no experience as all our plans are unlimited.

Also are libraries/community colleges out of the question? I have never been hassled for doing work at community colleges or regular colleges. I know in my area at least, since summer semester is in full swing, the libraries are open generally to 10:30. I've never tried a "regular" library. Bring a pair of headphones and do what you have to do.
posted by geoff. at 12:47 PM on June 8, 2004

The month-to-month T-Mobile plan is $39.99, actually. The $29.99 plan is for annual subscription (and triggers a $200 fee for early account closure). I'd say it's a good option for a summer of traveling, since the service is terrific, and there's Starbucks - or Borders - everywhere. (Airport coverage is sketchy, in my experience, but she's road-tripping, so who cares. And she can check the site to make sure there's wifi-enabled locations in all the towns she expects to be in.) The T-Mobile hotspot is silly easy - all she'd have to do is turn her airport card on and enter her user/pass into a webpage - and she can sign up in any hotspot.
posted by caitlinb at 2:30 PM on June 8, 2004

She won't be staying in hotels that have high speed hook-ups and doesn't want the expense of internet cafes.

Then no, it will not be possible to stream movies on the road reliably.
posted by mathowie at 2:52 PM on June 8, 2004

Go to Kinko's. And Apple Stores.

I got charged in NYC (Columbus Circle) but every other Kinko's I went into recently (inc. Vegas, Flagstaff, Santa Fe) was a freebie.

Managed to nab free WiFi from such places as Palm Springs Public Library, The Helping Hands Agency in Page, AZ & some random resident in Beverly Hills but no consistency or advance knowledge...having a copy of the Kinko's outlet booklet & list of Apple Stores will help tho'.
posted by i_cola at 3:07 PM on June 8, 2004

I've used T-mobile for a couple of months and have had good luck with it. For a free solution (but on the sketchy side of law and ethics), you could go to and find unsecured access points.
posted by brool at 3:30 PM on June 8, 2004

If it's a real "road trip" she could look into high speed access (some wired, some wireless) at Flying J truck stops. Not free, but $25 a month isn't too bad either.
posted by Quinbus Flestrin at 3:37 PM on June 8, 2004

Panera Bread offers free, high speed WiFi. You can go to there site and find locations that offer WiFi. I've used it before, and it is very easy. Order coffee, open laptop, sign in, and surf.
posted by jacknose at 5:53 PM on June 8, 2004

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