Email, Internet and Voice
After investigating the choices for phone, email and internet we decided on Cingular cell phone service with wireless internet. This allows a cell phone with a modem to be used to access the web. We chose Compuserve as our ISP since I've had a Compuserve account forever.
It works with caveats. The download speed is a slooooowww 9600 baud max. So downloading web sites with pictures is pretty awful. It requires a digital cell phone connection (the little 'D' on the phone must be on). This will limit us a it when we get to sparsely settled areas that may have only analog service. Since voice is more critical than data this is a reasonable tradeoff.
The good news is that with Cingular's coverage of the entire country and low no-roaming rates, we should have reasonable coverage for a reasonable cost. We'll keep our surfing to nights and weekends.
Getting a decent phone to work was a challenge. The only phone provided by Cingular with a modem was the Nokia 3360. Unfortunately this only has an IRDA infra-red wireless connection to the laptop. I thought it would be too flakey and restrictive on a boat to use an infra-red connection. So I found out about the Nokia 7160, which is no longer available new but there are many for sale on EBAY.
Ideally one would have an old 3 Watt analog bag phone with an antenna mounted up nice and high on the boat. But any service for analog costs a bunch when roaming. So surfing the web at 9600 baud would be prohibitive.
July 28, 2002
We were able to access Compuserve, do email, surf the web slllloooowwwwly, etc. from Salem Harbor. We got to York Maine and tried the cellular internet connection. Nothing. Tried it again in Cape Porpoise and nada. After calling Cingular, I find that the WAP protocol needed to do internet isn’t available when you roam off the Cingular network. Like in Maine for instance. Bummer. It is supposed to be available for the rest of the east coast. So we use libraries (make a reservation to use it for 1 / 2 hour) and the rare internet Cafes like the excellent one here in Bah Hahbah.
The other problem is that the best harbors that are remote and small, have poor cell reception. At sea, near large towns, and in large harbors it’s fine.
We are in the Chesapeake now, heading for the ICW entrance at Norfolk, VA and can say where Cingular Internet is available on the coast. The story is that if the phone indicates “Roaming” or “Cingular Extend” then no wireless internet is available. When it indicates :Cingular” internet is available. Here’s the tally. These are coastal areas only:
Maine: No internet
New Hampshire: Yes
Rhode Island: Yes
New York: No
New Jersey: Yes
Maryland north of Annapolis: Yes
Maryland South of Annapolis: No
Virginia: No so far (to Norfolk)