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The Grueling Outdoor Survival Test: A First-hand, Eyewitness Account

For me, nothing says returning to one's roots, and rediscovering what really makes a man a man, than broadband Internet access in the wilderness of our country. At this distance from major transmission stations, to call this "broadband" is perhaps to tell a bit of a fish tale. Internet access out here is about as fast as the average speed of DSL access in a congested suburb.

The statistics provided VZAccess recorded my fastest reception speeds at approaching 256 kbps, but averaging something more like 112 kbps. Still, that's faster than by telephone - especially much more so than linking via a USB connection through a cell phone.

TG Daily's intrepid reporter going to great lengths, and at considerable risk, to bring you the truth about technology every day.

Hard at work. But how does he see that screen in bright sunlight?

Even out here, time of day made a huge difference. During the late afternoons, especially around 4 pm Eastern time, reception speeds slowed to a pace that could compel one to stick a lure in the water in-between page refreshes. Fortunately for my career, though, I vigilantly continued. During the slow periods, reception slowed to about 36 kbps, which is right in there with what our ancestors called phone modems.

If there was one headache we encountered during our week-long trial, it was the upload speed, which is about as broad a band as a minnow is fat. At about 3 kbps upload speeds, it often took minutes to upload photographs of respectable size - and in the field, where battery power is critical, you might not always have that many minutes.

With the amount of uploads that normally take place on an average work day, power consumption became an issue, but not a critical one. My Athlon 64-based notebook system runs on about 2:45 minutes of battery power with consistent use, which is admittedly nowhere near optimum.

With the VZAccess card (more specifically, a Qualcomm 3G CDMA card) plugged in, battery life was reduced to about 2:10 minutes. Fortunately, we had plug-in power readily available, but if we were literally in the field, without a nearby automobile or other power generator, time could conceivably have become a precious commodity.

But in our particular circumstance - which was a combination "dry run" for future remote coverage, as well as a welcome change of venue - I managed to maintain the lifeline that keeps our business running smoothly and the news flow nice and even. Coupled with a Verizon cell phone (which, incidentally, drives the card's and service's price down even further), we could conduct our business from almost anywhere.

This dramatically opens up the realm of possibilities for any business whose employees are distributed in far flung locations, or anyplace whose local flavor and lingo prompts you to use phrases like "far flung." With the rapid spread of EV-DO - as well as its competitor, the more Europe-centered HSDPA - the information worker's home address is becoming, for lack of more specifics, the whole of Planet Earth.

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