In an ideal world you take your notebook wherever you want and that built in 3G modem or USB dongle gives you access anywhere. That pretty much works today while you stay in the country of the network operator you are with. As soon as you move out of the country, however, hyper expensive roaming charges spell the end of the fun. Mrs. Reding will surely improve the situation over time but it won't come quickly, especially for notebook access.
The practical solution today is to buy a prepaid broadband SIM, now available in many countries , and replace the home operators SIM while staying abroad, if the 3G device is not locked. The main issue for most users, however, comes afterwards. Usually, each network operator uses it's own access point name (APN) and sometimes even a username and password that has to be set on the notebook. This is an action that most people are not really very comfortable doing.
The thing is that this is totally unnecessary. O2 in Germany for example has recently introduced a feature in their network to accept any APN. As a consequence no matter what the user configures or even if he leaves the APN blank the connection will be established. While I don't like O2's approch to do it for all SIM cards, it would have benefit when being used in combination with prepaid broadband SIMs. Add to that a big fat note on the sales package that no configuration is required beyond putting the SIM in your already existing open 3G device and you've got a sure winner.
A simple thing to be done and I would not be surprised if operators in countries such as Austria, where you can buy prepaid SIM cards for Internet access in any supermarket for a couple of euros, would start to implement this feature soon to make it easy to switch to them. Switching to them, that's the incentive for them to do it! And a strong one at that.
So this is the practical scenario: You arrive at the airport in another country and after baggage claim you head straight for the next 'I sell everything and nothing' shop at the airport to get such a SIM. You put it into your dongle or notebook and that's it. Or even better, it's sold by the plane's cabin crew on the flight.
The only thing that stands in the way of this in many countries is the requirement to identify yourself when buying a SIM card. But in countries such as Austria and the U.K. where this is not required, it's totally feasible and operators have the will to think about it. And in countries were identification is required, how about identifying the user via a landing page where he has to type in his name, address and maybe credit card information that can be checked? In some countries like Germany, name, address and passport number is all that is required and SIM cards are activated by some prepaid vendors like that over the Internet.
I think many travelers wouldn't think twice about paying 20 euros for a gigabyte or so even if they are just in the country for a couple of days. And it's likely that most of them wouldn't fully use the 1GB anyway. A good deal I would say for everyone involved!