The WiFi Mystery

During my travels, I like to keep in touch with family, friends, email and my blog posts by using my computer. My computer, as well as most laptop computers manufactured during the past 3-5 years, come with WiFi already installed. On my Compaq Presario V5000, there is a blue button that lights up when the WiFi feature is active. With the ever present use of computers on the road, it is really hard to find a truck stop, hotel or restaurant that doesn’t have WiFi capabilities. WiFi is a gold mine for establishments who install it. It can bring in added revenue not only by attracting WiFi users to the establishment, but it can also reap rewards for signing up new WiFi subscribers.

I was recently at a truck stop in Three Forks, Montana. The Pilot Travel Center, AKA: The Town Pump, advertises WiFi on all their billboards and publications. I pulled in, parked and set up my computer to take advantage of the SiriCOMM hotspot. I found that the hotspot was active, but I could not make a connection to the network. I went inside the store and asked the head cashier why the WiFi wasn’t working that day. I had used the same hotspot only weeks earlier and knew that it was a good place to connect. The cashier insisted that they didn’t have WiFi and they did not have internet service. I insisted that they did and I got a look like I didn’t know what the heck I was talking about. Finally, after about 10 minutes of trying to get an answer why their hotspot was down, the cashier finally confessed that their manager had disconnected the service because it cost the Town Pump too much money! I told the manager on duty that it was a poor decision to disconnect their hotspot and I wouldn’t fuel at their establishment. I promptly left and took my business to the Flying J in Belgrade, Montana. Their hotspot was working fine and I was able to finish my online business. It wasn’t that the Town Pump turned their service off, it was the way I was treated as a person, as a hard working truck driver. I wonder if that manager will experience anyone else not taking their business to that establishment? It is a shame that a manager would feel that turning off the hotspot was good for business. How about the $600. dollar fuel bill he or she missed out on because I fueled at another location?

If you look around you at many truck stops, you will find several truckers using their laptops in their trucks, at the restaurant and in the drivers lounge. I wonder how much money the truck stops actually make on hotspot subscriptions? I wonder how much business is brought to that truck stop because they have a WiFi hotspot?

I was recently at a Starbucks and a couple women were looking at me using my laptop in my pickup truck. I overheard one say, “he must be using WiFi”. I laughed and waved, they smiled and went on their way. I am just amazed at the “newness” or the discovery of WiFi for some people.

Is the Town Pump actually a Pilot Travel Center? The cashier said they weren’t. Although, the vest she wore said Pilot, my receipt said Pilot and the sign over the truck stop said Pilot. I would suggest the manager of the Three Forks Town Pump, AKA: Pilot, rethink the value of keeping the WiFi connection ON!



  1. Congratulations James, you made the Wall Street Journal today 7/30.
    When I ask clerks and cashiers about wifi service most claim not to know anything about it and I usually believe them. Flying J has the best diesel prices for an independent like me so I always stop there where wifi always works but is not free. $19.95 per mo. is the basic charge.

  2. Thanks Tom!

    I was astonished to find that out this morning.

    Thanks for the info about the WiFi. I have found that Flying J’s service is a little bit faster and more reliable than Pilot’s.


  3. I agree with Tom about the ignorance of most cashiers about WIFI. The cashier at the Pilot in Barstow began shouting at me that there was no WIFI when I asked. So I brought my laptop in and showed him.

    Siricomm is probably the worst value for WIFI out here, as the service is slow and unreliable and costs the most of any.

    TA used to be the best until Idle Aire invaded most TA’s. They lowered the intensity of the TA WIFI signal so that you have to go into the restaurants at most TA’s to log on. Too bad there aren’t more than 2 tables with electrical outlets. Some TA’s have boosted their signals again.

    Idle Aire has WIFI too that’s cheap and powerful. Since they’re at nearly all TA’s, Petros, and a couple Pilots I purchased a year’s worth cheaply.

    One more thing (sorry for being verbose), The TA and some Idle Aire WIFI’s get their signals from ground connections so that when it’s raining you can still log on. Siricomm gets theirs via satelite, so even if somewhat cloudy it won’t work properly. Siricomm is more interested in the number of locations rather than quality or value of product. They suck.

    James, keep up the good work. A friend gave me a link to your blog after seeing it on WSJ (as Tom said).

  4. Thanks Matt!

    I always appreciate a great comment. I remember when Idle Aire was Park n’ View. Remember them? Having to plug in to that yellow speed bump in the middle of your parking space to get dial-up! LOL.

    I also agree that most truck stops have terrible wifi service. Although, Siricomm and Flying J still have the best service going in my opinion.

    In the states of Washington, Oregon and Texas, most rest areas have a decent wifi service too. I think it is called Road Connect. The monthly charge varies from $20-$24 dollars.

    I will probably start using broadband wireless through Sprint or Verizon before the month is up. It’s nice always having a connection when you need it.

    Thanks again for the comment and thank your friend for passing on the link!

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