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In the right WiFi place at the right time – sort of

Submitted by on Wednesday, 29 July 2009 No Comment

Usually, I buy the car and someone offers zero percent financing two weeks later. Or I order the computer only to have someone wave free printers and cameras at me the next day.

Oh, but not this time.

Today, I sold my soul to Verizon for the next year – land line and broadband in addition to the wireless account I already had.

The move came just hours after Verizon announced that it would begin offering broadband free access to WiFi hot spots .

Not that it’s going to help me much.

For one thing, I’m already mobile – mobile at a cost many customers aren’t willing to pay yet, but mobile nonetheless.

For another, the WiFi isn’t where I need it to be,  even though Verizon “partner” Boingo has more than 100,000 hot spots worldwide.

I checked the hot spot locator on Verizon’s Web site, and there’s not a one on Fort Irwin.  There are none in the tiny town in West Virginia near my mom. There are nine, though, in the town where I’ll live for another week – one each at an auto dealer, a grocery store and a hotel. The rest are at Starbucks. WiFi at Starbucks? Shocking.

Which means I won’t be abandoning Verizon’s much-ballyhooed 3G network anytime soon. In fact, for the 10 days our new house will be without any Internet service, my beloved Blackberry will save my life as I get online the new old-fashioned way: Hooking the computer up to a phone. Kind of cute and retro, isn’t it? It’s about the same speed, too, at times.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m paying $30 a month for Verizon’s mobile broadband, and I’d love to be able to use for “free” the solution  that Boingo usually charges $9.95 a month for. Not that it’s really “free” – Verizon will either make the money back elsewhere or already has written it off as the cost of keeping up with competition.

When rivals announced similar plans back in May, Verizon mocked free WiFi as a marketing stunt. It must have taken Verizon until now to figure out that WiFi can’t compete with mobile broadband as long as hot spots are merely tepid or downright cold in much of the country.

People who have to be online for business reasons – and I’m in that category – sometimes get tired of hanging out in coffee shops. They also need reliability. If you’ve ever sat in a hotel room and pressed your laptop as close as you can to a window in hopes of picking up a signal, you know the reliability isn’t there yet.

Not that wireless phones are 100 percent reliable either. Mine works at my mom’s only if I stand in the basement with my right foot against a door frame and my left elbow pointed toward the ceiling. But cell signals generally are safer bets than WiFi.

So thanks, Verizon, for the free stuff. I’m sure I’ll use it sometime, someplace. But it’s not enough for me to drop mobile broadband.

I guess this is going to work out for you after all.

Copyright 2009 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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