Wi-Fi is a pain. It’s a pain at home, dropping out when it shouldn’t. It’s a pain while traveling, especially when the airport offers wireless for a small charge or even for free, but holds your PC hostage with cookies. It’s a pain in hotels when you have to worry about your data being stolen and it’s a pain on the road because it’s non-existent.
Free Wi-Fi is never free. There is always a hook. There’s always a necessary strategy to get it. You have to go somewhere and park or go inside to get it, you can’t just open up your laptop and connect wherever you are. The hook may also be the labor it takes to get connected or some junk you need to download you don’t want on your laptop or any of the multiple security issues that come with free Wi-Fi. Free Wi-Fi often takes more energy and effort than it’s worth.
I use the iPhone and love the thing, but it has some serious limitations, especially when it comes to coverage. It’s great for keeping my inbox and feeds managed, but the connection isn’t always stable, which means I stare at the little progress icon, watch it spin and wait for it to time out. It makes no sense to me that it is 2010 and the wireless industry hasn’t figured out a way to keep my iPhone fully connected with five bars in a major metropolitan like Boston. I looked into tethering, but it’s not cheap. What concerns me more is that even if I went with tethering, the connection on the phone isn’t always strong so it may end up being a frustrating nightmare.
I’ve also looked into mobile broadband. When Sprint sent me the Sierra Wireless 3G/4G USB Modem to try, I admit I was skeptical. But after spending a couple weeks with it, I’m convinced mobile broadband is the way to go. Even if you only need a few days a month of Internet access away from your home or office, it’s well worth the investment to go with this product. It allows access to the Sprint 3G network and 4G network where it’s available. The software is easy to install and quickly connects from almost anywhere in downtown Boston. I was also pleasantly surprised by the 4G network speed. It’s considerably faster than the 3G connection, but 4G is only available in certain cities right now. Luckily, Boston is one of them, and throughout the area, I experienced steady coverage and really fast Internet access.