Cheapskates answer to internet access

So, in my last post, I wrote about looking at Boingo to see if subscribing to their mobile plan would save me some money.  And asked people to share their experience with Boingo (and I would still love to hear from people that have used Boingo’s service).  It still looks like it might be a good idea when I travel to Toronto, because from what I see online it looks like the University area is blanketed with wifi. So maybe I have a good solution for travel to Canada where Verizon gets real expensive.

But I have also been using the Boingo iPhone app locally in the DC area and I am seeing an obvious trend – just go to a Starbucks or a McDonald’s and get on their free wifi.  Who would have thought over-priced burnt coffee and greasy fast food would be the cheapskates answer to the information highway (at least in the DC area)?  Of course you have to have wifi or cellular coverage for the app to work (so I am seeing an obvious flaw when I travel), but after a couple of days of using the app even I can see the trend – just go to Starbucks or McDonald’s!  And throw in a Panera Bread here and there to mix things up and maybe get better food.  And yes, I do know that most airports I’ve been in the last few years have wifi you can access via Boingo.

I am thinking I just might have to look at Karma.  If I turn off my monthly iPad cellular service, I will still come out ahead financially and I think my waist line will appreciate not being around the fatten coffee drinks and pastries at Starbucks or the greasy, heart stopping, fast food at McDonald’s.  And maybe I just want to play with a new toy.  🙂



Traveling to Canada and getting real tired of the phone fees!

So, I love my job.  No really.  I LOVE MY JOB.  One of the perks of my job is I get to (ok, sometimes have to – it is a job after all) travel.  I like a little travel now and then.  I go to some cool places; Austin, Boston, Seattle, LA, and even Newport Beach was ok.  And I have been going to Toronto quite a bit lately now.  It’s a nice city. I always have a good time there, but I am scared to death to turn my phone on.  I hear the horror stories of people making a few calls and ending up with $200+ phone bills. Or forgetting to turn off cellular and getting a $4,000 bill for data.   So the last couple of times I’ve traveled to Toronto I call Verizon ahead of time and turn on the international plan so Canada is covered, but I am getting really tired of the fees Verizon Wireless charges for traveling outside of the US.  This last trip I didn’t even use my phone at all except when I was on wifi and the fee was still $25.

So, I am looking at my alternatives.  Even though we are trading partners and some people say Canada is the 51st State up north, I can not find a US cell provider that offers reasonable coverage and rates in the US and Canada.  So do I buy a cheap unlocked phone and buy a SIM card when I am up there next?  I did that years ago with an old iPhone 3. I just read about Truphone’s Tru SIM international cards, but it’s pretty easy and probably cheaper to just buy a cheap SIM card once I get to where I am going.

Some guys that use to work for me bought an unlocked mifi in Singapore and then got a local SIM card so they could not only get their phones on wifi, but it also worked for their laptops.  And my iPad doesn’t get cellular service while I am in Canada either, so maybe that would be nice. Seems easier than the phone, but I foresee technical issues.

Honestly, I am getting tired of paying my standard Verizon Wireless bill here in the US and then also paying $20 a month for my iPad.  So is there an alternative mifi I can use in the US and in Canada (even better if it works in Europe too)?  I have looked at Karma and FreedomPop.  I love Karma’s pay for what you use model.  And they both seem very reasonable (much much cheaper than Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, or T-mobile) and both have pretty good coverage in the DC area.  But neither work very well in Maine (or any other less populated area) and neither has coverage at all anywhere in Canada (or Europe).  So I do not see that route fixing my entire problem, at least until they expand their coverage significantly.

It won’t help me in the States, but if I plan ahead I could rent a XCom Global International mifi Hotspot.  But at almost $18 a day (plus you pay for shipping) that will quickly turn out to be more than I have been paying Verizon Wireless.

So, I am looking at Boingo.  Boingo looks like a win win – 1) it solves my $20 per month iPad fee from Verizon and 2) I’d be able to get online while in Toronto (and they say most of Europe too).  And I’d save money!  For Boingo’s mobile only plan, it’s just $8 a month for two devices.   From looking at their map they seem to have decent coverage in the DC area.  And I checked Austin, Boston, LA, and Seattle seem to have good coverage too.  And it looks like they have saturated the area around the University of Toronto, so I’d get excellent coverage there too.  Anyone have any hands-on experience with Boingo?  Should I ditch my iPad’s Verizon wireless plan and go Boingo instead?  It looks like I’d still get coverage here in DC and everywhere else I travel (including Toronto) and save $12 a month to boot.   I’d love to hear from people subscribing (or that use to subscribe) to Boingo about their experience.

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