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Before I leave home on a trip, I gather all the info I might need while traveling: my flight numbers, my hotel address, the location of the nearest Starbucks and a list of nearby Wi-Fi hotspots.

Finding hotspots in advance saves me time and frustration later by predicting whether I'll have high-speed Internet access at the airports, hotels and cafes that I expect to visit. Reviewing provider lists and pricing helps me to figure out the most economical way to obtain Internet access when I'll have several options. When my best option is a café, carrying that establishment's phone number and hours with me can be handy.

This information can often be obtained from provider-supplied "Connection Managers" used to access commercial Wi-Fi hotspots. If you have an all-access account with one carrier, Connection Managers are a great way to locate hotspots where you'll find "free" (that is, previously paid-for) Internet access. Here are some common provider hotspot lists:

Some travelers may want to consider further options like other commercial providers, free hotspots offered by retail establishments and open-access community WLANs. You can find those hotspots by using general-purpose Wi-Fi search engines like: Wi-Fi hotspots are a great way to obtain convenient high-speed Internet access on the road. Just exercise caution when providing your credit card number to a provider that's unfamiliar, and always use security measures (VPN clients, SSL encrypted sessions, personal firewalls, secure connection managers) when sending sensitive data in public hotspots.


About the author: Lisa Phifer is vice president of Core Competence, Inc., a consulting firm specializing in network security and management technology. Phifer has been involved in the design, implementation, and evaluation of data communications, internetworking, security, and network management products for nearly 20 years. She teaches about wireless LANs and virtual private networking at industry conferences and has written extensively about network infrastructure and security technologies for numerous publications. She is also a site expert to SearchMobileComputing.com and SearchNetworking.com.

Do you have comments about this article, or suggestions for Lisa to write about in future columns? Let us know!



This was first published in August 2004

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