access thru a cell phone
provider is a good way to stay connected in US coastal waters. I have my phone
with T-mobile and get unlimited internet access at dial-up speeds for an additional $20 a month. On a trip from Fort Myers
, Fl to Appalachicola a year ago I had access up to 10 miles offshore
with the phone down on the chart table. Higher speed access is available from the major cell providers at a greater cost. Googling "EVDO" will get you information on the high speed cell phone
If you don't want to get involved with monthly charges for a service
you don't use all the time and only want to get online when your in port you can get a wifi
adapter that will let you connect to any Hotspot available in the harbor, either free or thru subscription. These adapters provide the same function as the adapter built into your laptop except they will provide a more powerful output signal, have much greater receive sensitivity and have an antenna
jack that permits use of a variety of high gain, exterior antennas. The EUB-362ext is a USB device that will meet most boaters basic needs. They cost around $60 and with a 15 foot extension cable they can be placed topside and plugged into a laptop below. They can use a variety of antennas and it's a fairly simple DIY project
to put them in a waterproof case for permanent mounting.
For the most flexible system you can get a wifi
router/bridge in an outdoor enclosure for permanent mounting topside ($200-$300). These use a Cat5 network cable to carry signal and 12 volt power (POE). Down below you can plug
the network cable directly into your computer or you can plug
into a wireless router for internet access anywhere onboard. Many people that use Vonage or other VOIP service
use this setup to take their business or home phones with them for use whenever they have a wifi hotspot available. Once you connect to the hotspot you can turn off the computer and just leave the phone adapter connected to the router.