Finding Wi-Fi Hotspots on the Run

Many Internet service bundles include the free use of Wi-Fi access points that allow subscribers to go online with laptops, Wi-Fi enabled smartphones and tablets outside their home.

Seemingly every day, more access points (known as "hotspots") are being created to allow users to go online, access Web-based applications, send and receive email, watch online video and more – on fast connections, without the need to connect wires.

Wi-Fi is such a valuable and versatile access tool that many people have come to rely on having access to it. To meet the needs of travelers, a growing network of publicly available hotspots is waiting to meet their Internet access needs.

For example, Wi-Fi access can allow you to check local weather, stay on top of your email or finances, or to send vacation pictures to friends or family members back home. With so much of our lives migrating online, having convenient Internet access outside the home allows people to spend vacation time relaxing, without having to worry about what they may be missing back home.

Many wireless providers offer hotspot access at a wide range of public locations such as airports, hotels, coffee shops, convention centers, restaurants and more. Providers view Wi-Fi not only as competitive advantage, but also as way to help smart phone users enjoy fast connections without straining the cellular network.

With Wi-Fi service, you'll connect at speeds much faster than dialup, and connection software can help you automatically detect and connect to available networks while on the road, at the office, or at home.

Finding Free Access

A number of other locations offer free Wi-Fi access either as a public service or as a way to encourage customers to patronize their locations. Most public libraries, for instance, offer free Wi-Fi as part of their research mission, and a growing number of coffee shops and quick-service restaurants provide Wi-Fi as well.

Bookstores, hotel lobbies and colleges are just some of the kinds of locations where you're likely to find a connection just by sitting down and opening your laptop. Some states also provide free Wi-Fi at highway rest stops or parks as a service to visitors.

Several Web sites provide lists of free, public Wi-Fi hotspots. If you're going to visit a location outside the office, checking a couple of these sites (and calling ahead to verify their information) can save you valuable time looking for a hotspot while you're on the road.

Several mobile applications also provide lists of free Wi-Fi access points. Most use their GPS capabilities to identify your location, find the nearest hotspot, and provide driving directions to get you there. Popular apps include Free WiFI Map, Free WiFi Finder, and others.

Airports recognize that Wi-Fi is an important amenity that business travelers rely on and increasingly come to expect as they make travel plans. With travelers commonly scheduling meetings in airport restaurants, lounges and conference rooms, Wi-Fi is coming to be considered a necessity by business owners, executives and meeting planners.

With a growing number of smartphones and tablets offering Wi-Fi and LTE data access, airport travelers can often enjoy the speed and reliability of Wi-Fi connections without having to boot up a laptop.