Saturday, August 27, 2011

Staying connected

August 27—When we were contemplating traveling, the question arose, “How would we stay connected?” Since I still do freelance writing, it was important to be able to connect with the cyberspace world. The question was how to do so economically.
A few months ago, we thought we might have the answer—Clearwire. Clearwire is a wireless internet service that claims to have both 4G as well as 3G service nationwide. We signed up for both 4G home service (via a wireless modem) as well as a for mobile internet service, using a 3G/4G modem.
We discovered that the home service did not perform as fast as expected. Furthermore, 4G mobile service was limited to big cities, and although the fee we were paying gave unlimited 4G downloads, there was a limit on 3G downloads. Another drawback was the cost: We were paying for both home and mobile service each month, yet we were going to using the mobile service only sporadically.
Given the drawbacks, we quit Clearwire. We had to pay a small service charge (not like AT&T or T-Mobile), but we were willing to do that in order to be free of the much larger monthly cost. (As a side note, Clearwire made an error in its paperwork when I quit the service, and for several weeks, we were received harassing recorded telephone calls from them. It took a letter to the president of the company to clear up the problem. I do not recommend Clearwire because of its very poor customer service.)
So, we were back at square one: How to get connected? I investigated the various services. Verizon has the best coverage, and also has widespread 4G, but it is expensive. Likewise, the same for the other major brands.
I discovered, however, that Virgin Mobile, the carrier I currently use for my cell phone service, has Broadband2go, available either through a USB gadget or a “mifi” device. These only come currently in 3G service. I decided the USB device would probably serve us well, and it has.
Online, the USB device costs $79.99. I bought one on Amazon for $49. (You also might be able to buy one on E-bay for less.)
For the most part, the 3G service is fast enough. No, you can’t really watch videos very well, unless you have a very strong 3G connection, but Virgin Mobile uses the Sprint network, and we have found service pretty strong all along the interstates we have been traveling.
Broadband2go has distinct advantages over traditional contract services. For one, there is no contract! You only have to use the service once during a 12-month period to keep your account active.
For another thing, you can buy as much download capacity as you need. Choose from several time-limited plans—$10 for one week or 100 MB (whichever comes first); $20 for one month or 500 MB (whichever comes first), or $50 for one month (unlimited downloads at 3G speed, up to 2.5 GB, slower after that theoretically). I bought the $50 plan, which was a good decision, because it doesn’t take long to go through 100 or even 500 MB.
The plan has so far served me well. I am able to check my e-mail several times a day. As we travel start to consider where to stay for the night, I pull up the internet and search out various discount RV clubs for the best and least expensive sites. I also search for diesel prices. And (perhaps just as important as all the other things), I browse our Jacksonville public library and download both e-books as well as audio books, which keep us entertained during our travels.
I also keep connected with my cell phone. I have a Virgin Mobile cell phone. At home I pay for 300 minutes a month. I upped that to 1,200 minutes for $45. (That $45 includes as much texting and web browsing as I can do!) I will go back to the 300 minute plan once we return home again.
Virgin Mobile, as I mentioned above, uses the Sprint network, so we get pretty good coverage. I am considering changing to Straight Talk, which piggybacks on the Verizon network, for even better coverage. Jim’s phone is T-Mobile, which has additional coverage. (He has a limited plan—1,000 minutes for $100, to be used within a 12-month period.)
So there you have it—how we stay connected. So far it has worked well. I am able to do my freelance work, know what’s going on the world, download my morning crossword, and remain in touch as much as I want.
Until next time,
Your Reluctant RoVer
Linda

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