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.
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 to
allow 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
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.