The Pricey Nature of Wireless Internet Providers

by on September 11, 2014

in consumer

DISH TV Network and their ad skipping DVR

When I was on Comcast/Xfinity, I never gave a second thought to using the internet as they had me covered with my 20+ GB monthly bandwidth usage.  But being forced to move to a wireless or satellite provider for internet is proving to be anything but friendly to my wallet.

When we moved out to the nether-regions of Morgan Hill, CA, we moved to a corner of the town that has no cable options. So I was forced to consider what we were going to do TV and internet service.

My choices came down to satellite providers like DISH Network or DirecTV and (despite my previous questionable encounters with DISH) and chose the DISH Network provider.

After picking DISH, I started looking for an internet provider. When I decided to go back to DISH, oddly, DISH lost out the opportunity to provide my internet due to some misguided process that prevents the task of adding one more product to an order.  Here is how that went down:

After setting up an installation appointment with DISH, I called them back, wanting to add internet to my package. It took five representatives (who kept saying the next person can take care of this) and 25 minutes to discover that I would either have to

A: Wait until the service is installed, then call back to have them test my connections and arrange a second installation date.

OR

B: Cancel the existing order, add internet to a new installation order, and reschedule my installation appointment.  (With no guarantees that I’d get my Friday time/date back.)

No folks, there was no “C: option of adding it to the existing order I had in place.

I took that as my hint and looked around at other internet providers and ended up with my own wireless provider, Verizon Wireless. They’ve served me well over the years, so I extended my relationship with them.

Ordering Internet From Verizon

After seeing all the options out there like some orgs capping users at 5GB or crazy rates for monthly allowances over 10GB, I ended up adding $90 to my monthly bill with Verizon by getting the JetPack hotspot device and bumping up my monthly service plan to incorporate a 16GB limit.

The JetPack is a dedicated hotspot device. It has a phone number, but does not make calls.

Before deciding on the JetPack, I had a few options with Verizon and trying to find decent consumer reviews and product comparisons was tough. I finally landed on some reviews from PCMag magazine touching on all the options that I could read about.

There’s this monster antenna from Verizon called the HomeFusion device. (Others call it the Canister) But what little I could dig up about the HomeFushion barrel on bulletin boards seemed troubled. I didn’t catch too many glowing reviews on it.

Additionally, I was getting suspicious with how the Verizon Wireless SALESMAN kept redirecting our conversation back to the canister, despite my not really finding any true advantages to it over the JetPack box.

Verizon has USB antennas I could jack into my laptop and desktop, but each one had its own fee and though I found nothing too negative about them online, I didn’t get a warm fuzzy.

Then I started looking at the JetPacks, which an online chat rep pointed me too. (I had several conversations with online reps because I found it a bit muddled trying to figure out what I wanted when I wanted internet.)

The JetPack LTE Mobile Hotspot is kind of like a rectangular hockey puck, very light and can handle up to ten different devices hooked up to it in various configurations.

Here’s the trick to signing up with Verizon Wireless to get internet service: There is no trick or special package that says, THIS IS YOUR INTERNET. If you have smartphones and the data packages associated with it, you’re already accessing the web. All you need at this point is the hotspot and a MUCH LARGER and crazy, over-priced data plan to accommodate your user needs.

Without cable, to access the web with my laptop, the JetPack itself adds $20 per month to my bill, (The cost of an additional phone number) then the additional data allowances up to 16GB are another chunk of money.

Now keep in mind, a hotspot is at the mercy of the available signal, just like your phone. It can’t increase the signal it can only forward it to other devices. So there’s no actual bonus of connecting your smartphones to the hotspot but I’ve read that connecting phones to the hotspot helps save the battery of the phone, since part of its power consumption is always striving to find that signal. Therefore it makes sense that since your phone only needs to find the hotspot a few yards away, it is not struggling to pull in signals from antennas that could be miles away.

Attaching to the JetPack

When you get the JetPack, you get a phone number and password. All you have to do is look on your phone for available networks and you should see your new device. It is pretty easy to identify. To connect to it, just supply your password, and you’re in and surfing the web.

Installing my JetPack in my Home Environment

One of the great features of the JetPack is the little update window (or admin page) that has all kinds of information. In this case, the more important window was the one telling me the signal strength of the cellular signal.

My signal strength ranged from 25% at the east end of the house to 70% on the southwestern portion of the house. Hmm, where should I put it then?

Installation was a snap actually and connecting to the device was pretty easy too.

Now depending on your reception, you could get blazing speeds of up to 40MBs per second… or like me, something around 9MBps.

I’m not a power user that needs lightning speed, so I’m OK.. and yes, patient. As long as I don’t expect anything too drastic, I should be able to avoid any kind of disappointment. Right? Here’s hoping.  BUT my days of streaming movies and other copious content seems to have come to an end because of how the satellite and wireless providers limit users.

Does Wireless Internet Have To Cost This Much?

As far as these costs with wireless or satellite providers, I first made the presumption that since these companies primary business wasn’t internet, I wasn’t sure what to think.

But then I started seeing how ISPs enforce data caps, even though they don’t really have transmission issues.

The “story” is to manage congestion, but then on the other hand, say they don’t have congestion.

And yet the four major cellular carriers employ usage-based pricing. With AT&T and Verizon hosting 85% of the business, they have no compulsion to change. There is no competition. And that kind of freedom by corporate attitudes is dangerous to the consumer.

This is why consumers find themselves with no decent options for wireless internet. This is why basic internet access using a mere 20GB a month could cost me over $100 a month. Because where I’m at, I have no option.

And some studies have shown that the plan to cap usage to preserve data capacity, is a farce. (They said in so many words)

As a consumer with a few options, I’ve always enjoyed Verizon Wireless. But after reading a few resources, I see that they’re putting everyone over a barrel and saying “screw you” to internet customers, charging them an arm and a leg when they could be providing this common, everyday service for much much less. But they have no reason to change this practice while folks continue to, or are forced to use these kinds of services.

That’s a bummer.

But that, my dear reader, has been my experience with finding non-cable internet.

Resources: PCMag 1 product review, PCMag 2 product review, arstechnica, PCWorld.

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