CELL PHONES Probably the easiest way to connect to the internet while traveling is to use your cell phone.   However, to avoid roaming and long distance charges, it is best to have one of the plans such as ATT's Digital One Rate.   Similar plans are offered by carriers.   One of the best rates available currently is through Verizon wireless as they have plans starting at only $35/month for 150 minutes, including long distance.

In addition to price, there are several things that you need to determine before you sign up with a provider.

  1. First, determine if there is a clause that limits the amount of calls that originate out of your "home" area.   Some cell phone companies will cancel your service if less than 50% of your calls are not originated from your home area.
  2. Second, make absolutely sure that the plan you select allows you to make calls on either an analog or digital system, and anywhere in the country without incurring roaming or long distance fees.   Sprint PCS only allows for free long distance and no roaming fees only while on their system.
  3. Once you have decided on a provider and a rate plan, now you need to decide on a phone.   Since there is no dial tone on a cell phone, you will likely need a special cellular modem, although there are some phones that allow a direct connection to your computer.   Also, you may require special cables to connect the cell phone to the computer or the modem.   Make absolutely sure that you compare what you will need, prices and AVAILABILITY for the cell phones that you are considering.   Ideally, take your computer with you and don't leave the store until they can make it work!

See this page for one member's experience and pricing.

There are some disadvantages of using the cell phone for internet access.   Connections are slow, which translates into airtime cost.   You probably will not want to casually surf the internet on your cell phone (unless you are awaiting delivery of your new Prevost).   However, the speed is adequate for e-mail purposes.   You will also require a pretty good signal for a data connection, so it is usually best to only try to connect while stopped.

OTHER CONNECTION OPTIONS Fortunately, there are other options that are more cost-effective, but require that you have a laptop computer.

Most truck stops, such as Flying J, have a trucker's lounge or restaurant where tables with RJ-45 (telephone) jacks are provided for making "800" calls.   Click here for a list of modem-friendly truck stops.

Click Here for a website that will give you a list of modem-campgrounds and campgrounds with instant telephone hookups.   This is also a good site for answers to your mobile internet/Email access questions.

Some Mail Box Etc locations have a customer "courtesy phone" that you can use for a short period of time to get your e-mail.   Kinko's usually have a nice desk area with a phone jack where that you can use for free.   Some businesses will also let you borrow a phone line if you ask nice (especially if you are buying something).   However, bigger businesses may have a digital PBX, which will ruin your modem, so use caution.   Also, some libraries have computers already hooked up to internet so that you can link to your ISP to download your email to a disk.   Ask your ISP how to do this.

FUTURE POSSIBILITIES Cellular packet data is being introduced in most major metropolitan areas.   This will allow high-speed access to internet for $20 - $60/month.   Since this is not widely available, it is not a viable option.   Also, be careful of plans that charge for airtime or by the amount of data.

A new service is planned for 2001 that will allow for high-speed TWO-WAY connection via satellite.   It remains to be seen how viable this service will be.   Do not confuse this with an existing service, such as DirecPC, which is only a ONE WAY connection via a satellite that still requires a phone connection for upstream data.

NOTE: This page is only for high-level reference only.   Eventually, high-speed and affordable wireless communications may be the norm.   Always investigate your options thoroughly before you make a decision.