My WiFi left me on vacation

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It has been one of the most unquestioned pieces of travel advice since the first WiFi hotspot flickered to life in an unnamed hotel more than a decade ago: If you want to stay connected while you’re on vacation, you can save a bundle by skipping a pricey cellular roaming plan and using a wireless Internet connection instead.
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These Surfbouncers really know how to sweet-talk a girl

screenOne of the first questions I ask when someone needs help is: Could I see the correspondence between you and the company? When Steven Price showed me his back-and-forth between with a company called Surfbouncer, I was speechless.

And then I asked the company for its side of the story.

Normally, here’s what happens when you have trouble with a business: You send it an email with your problem, and it replies with a pre-fabricated form response that vaguely addresses the issue and offers non-apologies like, “We’re sorry for the way you feel.”

Surbouncer, which offers VPN services for international travelers who need to stay connected, is not one of those companies.
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What’s your problem? Shocked by an $800 phone bill

Question: I recently flew to Vancouver for a business meeting. Before leaving, I called Sprint to find out the most efficient way to connect.

An agent noted I already had an international calling plan that would make me eligible for reduced priced calls.

I specifically asked about Sprint’s MiFi, a wireless hotspot that can be connected to several devices. He said I didn’t need to worry about the MiFi. He said, “It’s just like in the US.”

It wasn’t.

When I returned to the US, I was advised both my phone — and most notably, my MiFi — had nearly $800 in data roaming charges for a weekend. I called Sprint, and after several hours on the phone, a representative agreed to reduce my bill by 15 percent.

After a little more haggling, a supervisor reduced it to 50 percent. I asked Sprint if it could pull up the recording of our first conversation, but was told it wasn’t possible.

I’d really like a full refund. Can you help? — Dawn Lyon, San Francisco

Answer: Sprint is either right or wrong, which is to say it either gave you the incorrect information (which means it owes you a full refund) or the correct information (in which case, it owes you nothing).
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Ridiculous or not? Wireless hotel charges that make you want to stay home

As I reviewed my hotel bill at Harveys Lake Tahoe recently, I noticed something unusual: Instead of charging me $11 a day for wireless Internet, they were asking for three times as much.

“This can’t be right,” I told the clerk.

She called a manger, who firmly explained it was right — Harveys charges for wireless access not by room, but by device. Although it isn’t disclosed on its website, it is on the terms and conditions when you log in. I had glossed over it when I got online.
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That’s ridiculous! Hotels are charging even more for what should be free

What could be more absurd than paying a surcharge for a wireless Internet connection at your hotel?

Paying even more for a wireless Internet connection at your hotel.

But that’s exactly what more travelers are being asked to do when they open their laptops after checking in. A “regular” Wi-Fi connection typically costs about $10 a day, but if they want to upgrade to a higher speed, they have to pay a premium of between $5 and $10 over an above that rate.

Philip Guarino was faced with that choice on a recent visit to Zurich, Switzerland. A basic wireless connection at his hotel ran at 500 kilobits per second (the average dial-up connection is 56 kilobits per second). The “premium” connection speed was about 20 times faster, which would have allowed him to easily stream videos, make Internet-phone calls and download large files – all the things a reliable high-speed connection ought to do in 2011.

“I pay for the upgrade every time because the difference is so drastic,” says Guarino, a business consultant.
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Travelers need fast, free Internet connections — why can’t they get it?

I’m writing this from the Vista Café on Deck 4 of the Disney Dream. But it’ll probably take half an eternity to post it, because the “high speed” wireless connection on the ship is significantly slower than what I’m used to on dry land.

Actually, that’s being generous. I’d give anything for a reliable a dial-up connection right now.

No disrespect to the ship. After all, only a few years ago, you couldn’t get online from a cruise ship. But it got me thinking about travelers and Internet connections.

I’ve been on the road for the last month. (My cats don’t recognize me when I come home, or maybe they just refuse to.) If there’s one thing that all of the destinations have shown me — from Northwest’s Florida’s Beaches of South Walton to Castaway Cay in the Bahamas, where I am now — it is this: There’s no such thing as too much bandwidth.
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