WLAN in the
Most Unlikely Places
If you have any remaining
doubt about the adoption rate of WLAN, this news will remove it. Melanie
and I needed to visit her parents in West Virginia earlier this week.
As we normally do, we took the notebook computer along and tend to RF
Cafe business (answering e-mail, posting headlines, updating Recent
Additions, etc.) while there using her parents’ dial-up service. Connection
speeds of about 40 kbps are the norm. It is painful, to say the least,
but at least we are in-touch.
parents live about 5 miles outside of Morgantown, which is the second
largest city in the state, but are buried in a little depression (an
appropriate term for this place, believe me) with two small neighborhoods
adjacent to their property. This satellite map shows the area I am describing.
Their property is outlined in yellow (click on map thumbnail). I decided
the WLAN card in the computer to scan for wireless networks. To my great
surprise, I picked up two while inside the house. I next took the computer
outside and scanned again. This time, no fewer than seven networks were
detected – five secured and two unsecured (click on screenshot thumbnail).
Longing for a high-speed connection, I attempted to log onto the
stronger of the two unsecured networks and was able to get a 5 Mbps
connection. Sweet! Although the power level was low and the data rate
varied, it was still a couple magnitudes better than the telephone line.
The closest house is about 100 feet away and the strongest signal fluctuated
between the 2-bar and 3-bar level. My guess is that all seven signals
must be originating from the homes within about 200 to 300 feet, so
surely there are many more wireless networks operating in that same
Podunk area of WV.
Knowing that area from having visited there
for many years, I can tell you that the ratio of Working vs. Welfare
households highly favors Welfare, so that means our tax dollars are
subsidizing an awful lot of broadband Internet setups. No doubt we are
also paying for the computers that are associated with those networks.
I can also tell you that most of the people there also have premium
cable TV and cellphones, 4WD trucks, multiple dogs, chain-smoke cigarettes,
and buy better cuts of meat than I do (using food stamps, of course).
But I digress.
So, although one RF Cafe Forum poster who lives
in San Diego wrote of his ability to connect for free from just about
anywhere in that dense environment, I have discovered that there is
a good chance you can connect wirelessly in even some of the most unlikely
places. You might try scanning your neighborhood for connections. My
house in North Carolina is in a fairly rural area with not many neighbors;
the closest is about 300-400 feet away. Even so, my notebook computer
sees his unsecured LinkSys WLAN. If I was not an honest person, I could
cancel my $42/month broadband plan with EarthLink and operate for free
off of his.