From Fort Worden State Park, far from my DSL connection at home, I review some of the options for staying connected while traveling.
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Connectivity while traveling has improved dramatically in recent years. Where hotels used to offer only what they labeled as “data ports” that you can plug your modem into, it’s not uncommon for them now to offer in a room high-speed internet or Wi-Fi for an additional charge.
Speaking of Wi-Fi, hotspots have taken off like no one’s business. Grab an account with T-Mobile for example, and you have access to thousands of hotspots across the country, masquerading as those Starbucks stores you see on almost every corner.
Other networks of hotspots exists as well. The nice thing about most of them is that you don’t have to sign up for a plan, but can often pay for a day or week’s worth of access. There’s also certainly free hotspots out there, often at libraries and occasional shopping malls, government facilities, and more.
For the serious internet user – or just the seriously addicted – cellular technology has finally gotten to the point of being usable and might prove the most flexible option of all. Major carriers now have high-speed internet options that are not only far better than the pitifully slow connectivity they used to offer, but are also much faster than dial-up speeds.
Coverage has improved dramatically as well. In fact, that’s what I’m using today. Out here in the state park with a great view, my Treo 600 cellular phone is operating as my modem as I connect to Verizon’s high-speed data network.
For the very remote user out of range of hotspots, Starbucks, and cellular phone towers, satellite is really the only answer. There are a couple of issues, however. Satellite bandwidth is often throttled so that if you use too much, you may find your speeds reduced to that of dial-up or worse. And sending data to a satellite twenty-two thousand miles up and then back down can introduce a delay that can cause certain internet protocols to fail or slow to a crawl. But when all else fails, it’s certainly better than no internet at all.
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