Moving in a Wired World

By Gabe Goldberg
Special to The Washington Post
Saturday, March 22, 2008

If Thomas Edison wired your digs for electricity and Alexander Graham Bell installed your phones, consider upgrading to newer technologies when you move.

Planning and flexibility may enable improvements not possible where you have been living.

In fact, technology can shape your home search. Dennis Courtney, president of Capital PC User Group, a nonprofit organization in Montgomery County, suggests first scoping a new neighborhood's choices and problems by talking to residents and service providers.

"Would you," he asked, move somewhere "that didn't have high-speed Internet access?"

He noted that the question applies equally to all areas and dwelling types (townhouse, single family, rental apartment, condo) because you cannot guess what services will be allowed or available and you may be restricted to certain service providers.

You may have more options than before -- cable, DSL, FiOS. Or you may be more restricted, having to use dial-up or satellite access. Use reference Web sites such as to supplement on-the-street reports and avoid post-move woes.

Because satellite Internet, like TV, requires a clear view in the proper direction, a tree or hill can spoil your online life. Some subdivisions attempt to prohibit rooftop and balcony accessories, although Federal Communications Commission regulations preempt many such restrictions.

Multi-unit (rental or condo) buildings present their own questions.

Building management sometimes signs a dedicated service provider contract, making residents captive to a subpar vendor. And Verizon's relatively new FiOS (fiber-optic service) may not be available in such units. Tenant and resident associations can explore requiring competition and fighting for flexibility, but this won't be quick.

To get the best value for your money, before moving, research your options for local and long-distance telephone service, features and services to add or remove, and whether to use cellular service only. Especially, check the quality of cellular service available.

Win Redmond, president of computer retailer and technology consultant at Keystone Computer in Arlington, suggested planning for new hardware you may use, such as a cable or DSL modem. If you can, get these devices in advance to read the manuals and explore setup to avoid surprises on moving day.

A major decision is whether to re-create your current technology environment or use the move as an opportunity for reinvention and excitement. Each approach has advantages.

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