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Living with Technology / Mobile freedom with FreedomPop

Updated 3:01 pm, Tuesday, December 11, 2012
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Computers used to be isolated devices. Connecting with other computer systems was an inherent security risk. Still is, but we deal with it.

Now, the thought of a standalone computer that doesn't connect to other computers is almost unthinkable.

The most recent addition to connected computers is mobile connectivity. You should have Internet access anywhere you are.

Well, that works mostly for mobile phones, but what about the times that you have a laptop computer, tablet or some other device that needs Internet access?

There are lots of places that offer WiFi -- typically free, but not always. If you're a cable Internet subscriber here in the tri-state area, you can usually use your device and connect to CableWiFi in public areas on your tablet or laptop computer.

But what if you don't have WiFi access and you're going somewhere? The best types of devices are called "mobile hotspots" and they're available from all of the major carriers: Verizon, AT&T and Sprint, in particular. But most of them cost money to buy, then you commit yourself to at least a two-year contract.

I've tried mobile hotspots and I like them, but I don't like the initial and ongoing costs. Plus, I find I don't need them enough to pay for it when I don't need it.

Then I received a solicitation from FreedomPop, whose website is www.freedompop.com. For a $100 deposit, they give you a mobile hotspot using 4G -- the latest high-speed Internet -- and 500 GB of data traffic per month.

Of course, you can buy more data or sign up for a monthly plan or buy a bunch of different services, but if you only need to use Internet access occasionally, this is a sweet deal.

In the couple of weeks that I've had the FreedomPop mobile hotspot, I've had to use it a few times and it's been great. It works. It's fast, with 8 MB download and 2 MB upload speed, and it's small -- about 2.5 inches by 2.5 inches by a half inch. It charges using a mini-USB port, which means I can charge it while using my laptop computer.

And it supports up to six devices at a time, so my laptop can use it while my iPad uses it, while my children's iPod Touches use it.

While 500 MB may or may not sound like a lot of data, it's perfectly adequate if what you do is use it for occasional email and web browsing. As soon as you start streaming audio or video, you will exceed the 500 MB free limit.

But, if you're going on a trip, you can log on to your FreedomPop account and buy a 2 GB or 4 GB data plan for a month and use pretty much all the bandwidth you and your family can consume on the drive to Florida and back.

FreedomPop also offers you ways to earn free bandwidth by completing offers from various resellers. I didn't find this particular feature something of interest to me, but it may appeal to others.

I really like the idea and implementation of FreedomPop. It's affordable, it works and it fills a gap that I've had in my repertoire of tech needs.

Mark Mathias is a Westport resident and has worked in information technology for more than 30 years. His "Living With Technology" appears every other Wednesday. He can be contacted at livingwithtechnology@mathias.org.