One of the things I hated about the "good old days" of ten or fifteen years ago was the feeling of isolation when traveling. I traveled a lot in those days and found that calling home was expensive, whether from a hotel room or from one of those new-fangled cell phones with high roaming fees. A lot has changed since then: most cell phones now offer nationwide access without roaming fees. As a result, I doubt if anyone pays the rip-off fees to hotels any more to place long distance calls from hotel room phones. It is much, much cheaper to pick up the cell phone and make the call.
However, what about e-mail? Or Facebook? And how about checking your home town newspaper's web site for the latest news, sports scores, and even the weather report back home? Again, that is easy to do with a laptop or handheld computer and wi-fi wireless networking, although it is not always cheap. Many hotels do offer free wi-fi networking to guests while others charge $10 a night or more for the same thing. Coffee shops, convention centers, airports, and other public locations do the same: sometimes free, sometimes not.
I always check in advance for wi-fi capability. I won't make a reservation in a hotel that does not offer Internet access to its guests, either wired or wireless wi-fi. In fact, I look first for free Internet access in a hotel. If I cannot find free access, I will reluctantly make a reservation in a hotel that charges for Internet connectivity.
For next week's Federation of Genealogical Societies conference in Little Rock, Arkansas, I have already made a reservation in a suburban hotel that offers free wi-fi access to its guests.
The FGS conference blog (http://www.fgsconferenceblog.org/2009/06/conference-week-internet-access-lots-of_18.html) provides a lot of information about wi-fi access at the convention center and nearby locations. I supplemented that information by looking at web sites of other nearby hotels to provide the following report:
The conference is being held at the Statehouse Convention Center with free wireless wi-fi access in the Rotunda (the conference registration area is in the Rotunda), Atrium, and in hallways in some of the building.
Vendors and others need to be aware that the exhibits hall is one level below ground level, and cell phone reception reportedly is spotty in that hall. Wi-fi may or may not be available in the exhibits hall, and even the various EV-DO and EDGE wireless data "air cards" offered by many cell phone companies may not work below ground level. If you want to check your e-mail, you will probably need to go upstairs to the Rotunda or to the Atrium. A map of the convention center floors is available at http://www.littlerockmeetings.com/conv-centers/Statehouse/floor-plans.
In past years, I have carried various wireless networking devices to genealogy conferences in order to provide free wi-fi networking to attendees. I don't see much need of that at this year's FGS conference, since free wi-fi is already available in the building. I'll leave most of my equipment at home for this trip.
The Peabody Hotel is near the Statehouse Convention Center (at 3 Statehouse Plaza) and is one of the official conference hotels. It offers complimentary wireless high speed internet access (according to the FGS web site at http://www.fgs.org/2009conference/hotels/index.php.)
The Doubletree Hotel Little Rock is near the Statehouse Convention Center (at 424 West Markham) and is one of the official conference hotels. It offers complimentary wireless high speed internet access (according to the FGS web site at http://www.fgs.org/2009conference/hotels/index.php.)
The Capital Hotel at Markham & Louisiana offers both complimentary wireless and wired Internet hook-up, according to the hotel's web site at http://www.capitalhotel.com/site//index.php?id=21#accommodations.
The Hampton Inn and Suites at 320 S Commerce St (adjacent to the Doubletree Hotel Little Rock) offers free high-speed Internet although the hotel's web site does not mention if the access is wired or wireless.
The Little Rock Public Library is less than two blocks away and offers public computer access. You don't even need to bring a laptop; you can use one of the library's computers at no charge.
For other locations in Little Rock, jiwire.com has an excellent listing at http://v4.jiwire.com/search-wifi-hotspots.htm?city_id=13376.
The Little Rock International Airport provides free wi-fi access to those waiting for flights. I wish all airports did this. Las Vegas and Orlando and Little Rock can do it, so why can't the others?
Let's communicate in Little Rock!