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Liberate Us From Land Lines

As journalists, we're theoretically impartial observers of the fields we cover. But I can't help cheering for announcements like today's top news story, about Verizon's plan to take its 3G wireless data network nationwide. To me, it's one more step in the direction of freedom from the tyranny of sending data over land lines, a regime whose end can't come soon enough.

Let's be clear right up front: I am neither paid by Verizon, nor am I a customer. I'm just a fan of wireless data networks, and I have an old Ricochet
modem (circa 1997) gathering dust in the closet as proof of my old-school status. I even remember RadioMail, something us industry geezers get teary-eyed about from time to time.

The reason for my enthusiasm is simple, and easily understandable to any corporate networking budget-head who has seen hotel phone bills that eclipse the price of the room. We may be a wired nation, but the problem lies in the wires -- with their limited places of access, and often arbitrary, outlandish or intentionally confusing array of prices.

Road warriors with Premier-type miles under their belts know the pain of using a laptop on a pillow or on a nightstand, when the only telephone jack in the room is strategically placed behind the unmovable bed. Sure, many hotels now offer high-speed links (sometimes free), but the majority of travel locations -- hotels, airports and convention centers -- have yet to understand and prepare for the needs of a mobile worker with a laptop.

Too many times, traveling professionals are at the mercy of local phone pirates, clueless event organizers and public-infrastructure dolts who don't understand that a pay phone without a shelf big enough for a laptop (or without a data port) is worthless. Give the people a predictable, reliable, fixed-cost way to send and receive data, anywhere, anytime, and they will come... with wallets open. Then I can look forward to reading stories about the pay-phone museum.