Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi, Wireless Everywhere

I couldn’t resist the title of this article after yesterday’s title, but without further ado, here are the Internet resources you need to find wireless hotspots. Yep, they’re everywhere these days, but they’re not always free. Wi-Fi has taken off in such a big way that there is a huge list of websites that list Wi-Fi hotspots, both free and paid. Instead of mentioning them in narrative form, I’m just going to list a handful of them with brief descriptions (end of the article). Which one is best is really up to you. Due to the sheer number of sites out there, I haven’t gone through and done any exhaustive testing, but I’m sure there are differences in the comprehensiveness of the data, and of course, presentation and site aesthetics.

For all of you road warriors out there, you probably already know that most major hotel chains offer Wi-Fi access, but many cost at least $10/day. Are there any that offer free access? Yep. For example, Marriott offers free Wi-Fi access in most of their hotels, even in the low-cost brands. The only problem may be the quality. I was recently in a Fairfield Inn, where sure enough there was wireless access, but I couldn’t get the connection to stay up for more than 10 minutes at a time.

What about transportation hubs – airports, train, bus and subway stations? Unfortunately, that’s a mixed bag as well. I was pleasantly surprised to find reliable, free wireless access recently in both Long Beach and Ft Lauderdale airports. On the other hand, I was unhappy to see that Boston’s Logan aiport was still charging around $10 for 24 hours of access. This has to be the most ridiculous pricing plan. How many travellers (apart from the unlucky ones) are going to be in the same airport for 24 hours? As someone who flies at least 6 times a year, I rarely spend more than an hour in a terminal waiting for my plane. Why would I spend $10 for 1 hour of access? I refuse on principle. Many airlines, however, do offer free Wi-Fi access at their airline club rooms – Continental offers it up for free, and Northwest, Delta, United and American all offer some form of Internet access in at least some of their club rooms. So go camp outside one of those clubs and pick up some leaky signals. 😉 As for other transportation hubs, it’s still not as widespread as in airports. Amtrak has Wi-Fi access in some of their stations, and you may be able to pick up Wi-Fi at some Greyhound stations, and there isn’t much subway Wi-Fi in the States, although there was a push to get it into the New York City subway.

And finally, if you just want to wing it and find your hotspots as you travel around without planning ahead of time, then you need to pick up a hotspot locator like this one.

Wireless Locator Websites:

  • JWire – Lists both free and paid spots, and even includes How-To’s.
  • Wi-Fi Free Spot – Just like the name suggests. No search engine. Lists by state, as well as locations in Europe.
  • MetroFreeFi.com – mixes in a blog with the listings.
  • Hotspot Locations – Lists hotspots in countries all over the world. Heck, I found a hotspot in Barbados!
  • my Hotspots – in Britain? This is the site for you.
  • Hotspot Haven – another international locator. Also lists airports, hotels, cafes and bookstores.
  • WiFinder – lists over 14,000 hotspots around the world and you can search by protocol (802.11a/b/g).
  • Wikipedia’s Wireless Community Network article – links to many of the community-based wireless access projects, especially the FreeNet ones.
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