Recommend an internet/phone setup for me, and/or explain hotspots to me
January 3, 2014 9:34 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for the cheapest way to have home internet and a cell phone.

I previously was borrowing my neighbor's wifi, but it hasn't be consistent lately.

I'm looking for the cheapest way to have home internet and a cell phone. I don't need a smart phone/lots of data, but I do need good home internet. I don't have cable, and I use the internet for TV on hulu and netflix, so I need a pretty fast connection.

Currently I am just using a pay-as-you-go phone that is $25 a month for limited calls and unlimited texting. Internet here runs about $65 a month after taxes and fees. So, can you recommend a setup that allows a smartphone to be a hotspot for home internet use? Would my internet use for movies be too much for a hotspot to handle? Is there a setup under the $90 I would be paying for my current phone and adding a home internet connection?

I am not tech savvy and wouldn't be comfortable jailbreaking phones or anything like that.

I am in an apartment where Verizon is already set up. I'm in Richmond, VA.

Can you recommend a cheap, easy setup for me? Thanks for your help/advice!
posted by shortyJBot to Technology (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I previously was borrowing my neighbor's wifi

Have you since given it back, or did he turn on password protection?

Using your cell phone as a hotspot for your entire apartment is a bad idea. The bandwidth needed would be too much for a cell phone to handle, and the data plan required for such a setup would be out of your price range. It would also be a great way to abuse the phone, and with cost being such a pressing concern for you, the few hundred you would need to pay for a new smartphone would be out of your budget.

Since you have Verizon wiring ready, you might want to check the Verizon High Speed Internet web page. If you need good home internet, you need a landline connection. Their plans start at $19/month, although you probably want the $29/month plan for your streaming needs. Even with taxes and fees, I would hope the total cost of the Verizon stays under $65 to keep within your total budget of $90/month for phone and internet.
posted by Tanizaki at 9:50 AM on January 3, 2014

I wouldn't recommend trying to do any significant streaming video with your cell service. Cable and DSL are pretty much your only options. It's worth calling both to find out who might give you a better rate, but I wouldn't expect much beyond a trial rate for the first few months. (They don't have to worry much about competition.) You might try asking neighbors if anyone's interested in actively trying to share service with you and splitting the bill.

You can probably do better than that for phone service. Ting is pretty cheap; if you want a referral code for a discount on it, MeMail me (or any number of other MeFites who use it.)
posted by asperity at 9:50 AM on January 3, 2014

I would disagree with both of you that a cell phone hotspot can't handle high bandwidth. One of my friends uses 250GB a month on his grandfathered unlimited Verizon plan on a Nexus 4. Granted, he has a custom ROM and some other voodoo, but nothing extraordinary that an average nerd on XDA couldn't do.

However, the issue you'll run into is data caps or throttled speeds. AFAIK Sprint is the only provider who offers truly "unlimited" 4G data on their network, but IIRC that doesn't extend to mobile hotspots.

Basically, get a wired connection if you need to do web-based video.
posted by lattiboy at 10:06 AM on January 3, 2014

You're going to go way over your bandwidth limits trying to use a smartphone in this way, which will end up costing you more, not less.

I see a deal from Comcast in your area for $30 or $35 per month for 12 months of 20Mpbs Internet. Add $7 per month (or whatever) for a cable modem and you're doing a lot better than the $65 you're paying now.

You can also get a $30 per month smartphone plan with data from H2O wireless (AT&T network), Page Plus (Verizon network), TMobile or even less than that with Ting (Sprint network).
posted by cnc at 10:18 AM on January 3, 2014

If you get a good 12-month deal from an ISP like Comcast, they are often willing to extend the deal when the 12 months expire if you call and ask them nicely while saying you'll otherwise be switching to another service. Rinse and repeat...
posted by anadem at 11:39 AM on January 3, 2014

If you want the absolute cheapest, Freedompop offers "free" cell phone service and home internet. (You will have to purchase the devices.)

I've used their free 3G hotspots and haven't run into any issues (other than regularly keeping and eye on my data usage).

As for a phone hotspot, most if not all smartphone plans throttle speeds after a set amount.
posted by wongcorgi at 11:42 AM on January 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

I pay $45 a month for Clear 4G Internet which handles Netflix just fine. So that's a reduction. Just do that!
posted by oceanjesse at 10:24 PM on January 3, 2014

Ask your neighbor if you can share his wifi for say $25/month. Be sure he has a reasonably fast service plan.
posted by conrad53 at 9:05 AM on January 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Ok, Verizon has a deal for Fios for $35 a month for a year, and then $45 a month for the next year. I made an appointment with them. I just wanted to make sure I wasn't missing out on some secret cheap internet wizardry. Thanks, guys!
posted by shortyJBot at 5:23 PM on January 5, 2014

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