Have you noticed that Mocha Latte’s and Web Surfing are seriously dating? They've been constantly seen together and causing quite a stir in gossip circles. Will they marry? Time will tell if all those chairs being taken up by soccer moms checking their email, college students doing homework, and business people running the mobile office turns out to be worth the space to the hosting corporations. So far the relationship seems solid.
Wi-Fi Internet access is spreading across the nation enabling wireless capable laptop computers to access the Internet from thousands of remote locations called “hotspots". Short for “wireless fidelity", Americans are in love with Wi-Fi, and the phenomena is presenting new options for those merchants who want to stay connected when away from the store.
T-Mobile cellular is behind all of those notebook computers seen in Starbucks nationwide. They also service Borders, Kinko’s, Hyatt Hotels, Red Roof Inns, airports, and the airline clubs of American, Delta, United, and US Airways with secure SSL T-1 speed. T-Mobile customers can sign up on a monthly basis for about $20.00. Non-customers must enter an annual contract and pay $30.00 per month. The connection is definitely fast, but speeds can vary depending on the amount of users at any single location.
Verizon competes with a nationwide wireless program that uses their cellular network and there's no need to find a particular access location. For about $80.00 a month, they offer broadband access, which can download at 400kb - 700kb in a growing list of cities. It’s slower than T-1 but the whole city is your hotspot and it might be fast enough for most surfing. Outside of these broadband service areas, the connection defaults to a slower connection similar to 56kb dial-up. A separate laptop data card must be purchased from Verizon to connect with their network.
But wait! Verizon offers yet another provocative possibility for the future of Wi-Fi. In a new experiment begun in New York City, Verizon has enabled many of its proprietary phone booths with high speed Wi-Fi. The service is free to Verizon customers and their website lists the locations and businesses nearby. New Yorkers can now find a coffee shop, public building or park bench within Wi-Fi range and jump online.
Many independent businesses such as (You guessed it - coffee shops) are offering free Wi-Fi for their customers. No contracts, no fee, just sit down and boot up and of course, get a cup of coffee. Locations can easily be searched online.
Home Wi-Fi use is expanding with the use of DSL or Cable Modem service and wireless routers such as Lynksys. No coffee required, but just to be consistent, you still might want to have a cup while surfing.
Firewalls should be enabled, virus and anti-spyware software should be on, and encryption software should be running if you want your surfing completely private. Of course, this goes for the Internet in general, since we're all surfing in public unless we've entered a Secure Socket Layer (SSL) zone or a Virtual Private Network (VPN) Check with your Wi-Fi provider for security questions.
Municipalities are going wireless across the country. Philadelphia and Minneapolis were the latest to announce plans for “Muni-Wi-Fi" coverage for about $20.00 per month to residents. This is seen as a solution to help close the technology gap in urban areas by offering lower cost Internet access to inner city residents. The expense to wire-up is causing major controversies as city governments across America move forward with this expansive option. Some cities are also combining this program with Internet classes and lower cost equipment.
Rick David writes a feature column for Merchant America a nationwide provider of credit card, debit card and check verification services for merchants. Rick also writes a comedy column entitled, Don't Laugh, It Could Happen To You
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