I have been traveling for 10 days now, and every night when I find a motel I make sure it offers free Wi-Fi. All but one of my motels has been in the $60 to $100 range and all of them have had signal that varied between low and non-existant. The one motel I paid $130 for (it was Moving-In week at MSU in Bozeman and I was lucky to find a bed anywhere) had a good signal. So it is clear, you get what you pay for.
Starbucks is my drink of choice and traveling through Montana can be trying for those of us Seattleites addicted to their particular taste & menu. There aren't a dozen Starbucks locations in all of Montana and I have that many within 5 miles of my home. I know Starbucks is an expensive way to quench your thirst, but I also know that when I sat down at the Missoula Starbucks on North Reserve the free Wi-Fi signal read excellent. Same thing at the Starbucks on South Reserve. Evidently coffee is like free Wi-Fi...you get what you pay for.
None of this would be so important if the replacement phone I got from Sprint two months ago hadn't crapped out as soon as I crossed the border into Montana. Using my little notebook and the nightly free Wi-Fi was my only way to communicate with home - where my 97 yr old mother is failing and my family worries about a 67 yr old woman traveling alone with a thirteen year old Toyota. I passed 120,000 miles on this trip and took took my Camry to the top of more than one mountain and it never missed a beat.
So the verdict is in...Starbucks & Toyota - YES! Sprint - NO! Free Wi-Fi - you get what you pay for.