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Likely Locales

Perhaps you're lucky and already know where the hotspots are around your town. If not, roll up your sleeves and prepare to spend some time researching. Several Internet directories are available that list local hotspots—search for wifi directory or hotspot directory. Keep in mind, though, that these directories get out of date fast, so keep a list of two or three options before you set out the first time.

Here are some likely locations for hotspots:

  • Libraries. Many local library systems now offer WiFi access to their patrons. College libraries also may offer such access to their students. You and your family may be able to take advantage of this setup, depending on how friendly the library is with the local town.

  • Hotels. Those that cater to the business traveler often offer their guests free Internet access; however, many of them also offer WiFi on a pay-as-you-go basis, usually around $8-$10 for 24 hours of access. This is also a venue to keep in mind the next time you go on vacation and have visions of computer withdrawal. ("Honey, you go check out the local petting zoo or art gallery. I'm going to spend the day by the pool." <wink, wink>)

  • Restaurants and coffee shops. Starbucks has been offering T-Mobile access for some time ($9.99 for 24 hours). McDonald's offers it at $2.99 for 24 hours. You can find free access at some local coffee shops, though they aren't as common as they were a year ago. Although it isn't required that you buy food or drink at establishments that offer WiFi access, it's often nearly impossible to resist the invisible expectation. This urge can be circumvented, however: Wireless access points have a range of up to 300 feet, so it's possible to sit in your car outside these establishments and use their access without being pressured to spend money on eats and drinks.

  • Local access. Get to know how WiFi is affecting your community. Several cities have WiFi'd their downtowns (Baltimore, MD; Gainsville, FL; Athens, GA; among others). Truck stops are becoming enabled to cater to the more than two million truck drivers. And the major telephone carriers usually offer wireless access as part of their service packages. If their hotspot coverage is good in your local area, it may be worthwhile signing up.

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