Internet connectivity for the disabled in New Mexico
August 10, 2021 8:22 AM   Subscribe

I have a disabled relative on a fixed income in mid-sized town New Mexico (where I am not). Increasing vision problems mean they would like to switch to a laptop from their phone to have a larger screen. I have an old laptop I can send them, but I'm stumped by the internet connectivity possibilities. What are my real options?

The relative is unlikely to be able to navigate or afford anything like an ISP contract, much less set up a router. They're also very likely to, quite innocently, exceed any kind of data cap.

Because of the data cap, a prepaid usb cellular modem seems to be out, even though it seems technically easier.

I can afford to put my name on an ISP contract and pre-pay for them and talk them through the router setup. But I'm hesitant to do that because it becomes a forever thing, and I moved for reasons.

Are there any other options?
posted by SunSnork to Computers & Internet (8 answers total)
Best answer: Have you checked out ? The us goverment is offering subsidies right now to qualified people, they might be one of them.
posted by AlexiaSky at 8:26 AM on August 10, 2021 [5 favorites]

In case the gov't-supported option doesn't work out. My mobile provider is Visible, runs on Verizon network, unlimited data, apparently throttled when traffic is high or data is over some amount. I don't use much data. 25/month, bring-your-own-phone or buy from them. You have to join a 'party' to get the better rate, I found a boringly-named party on reddit. Data is more plentiful and costs are coming down. Mint and (horrid, vile) Spectrum have similar offers.
posted by theora55 at 8:43 AM on August 10, 2021 [1 favorite]

I came in to say Visible as well.
posted by kathrynm at 9:26 AM on August 10, 2021 [1 favorite]

Streaming services like Netflix can use up a lot of data. If this is the case for your relative, they could get a low cost cell phone data plan and supplement it with a Netflix DVD plan. Many libraries also let patrons borrow DVDs so that could be another option if they still drive. Library WiFi can also be used to download Netflix shows and movies on their device.
posted by mundo at 11:07 AM on August 10, 2021

For people recommending mobile data plans, note that the question is about using a laptop. If you are recommending tethering a phone to the laptop, please note whether that is included in the mobile plan you're referring to, and how difficult that is to set up for someone with vision problems.

SunSnork: In general, it is possible to use the phone as a hotspot or tether it to the laptop, and get access to the internet that way. This usually requires you to navigate the phone menus to turn on a wifi hotspot, or connect a USB cord from the phone to the laptop and turn on tethering on the phone. It may be possible to set up the phone to automatically turn on tethering when connected to the laptop, but I don't have experience with that, and it will probably depend on phone and carrier.

But because it's easy to use large amounts of data that way, many carriers will prohibit it altogether, limit you to fixed amount of tethered data, throttle tethering speeds, charge extra, or some combination, so it will depend on which carrier you use.

You could also look into a dedicated hotspot device, but your concerns about data caps and price are a real concern there.

Before you write off the ISP contract, though, check the actual rates. At an arbitrary address in an arbitrary New Mexico town (Las Cruces), Comcast is offering a $50/month plan for $30/month the first year, $35 the second year, and $50 after that, and then a $10/month autopay discount on top of that. Others can chime in on the feasibility of getting that promo rate after the first year, but cable companies seem to have finally conceded that cord-cutting is here to stay, and don't try to force you into a $200/month bundle.
posted by yuwtze at 12:43 PM on August 10, 2021

Best answer: My former housemate is on disability and has one of those government subsidized plans. It costs her 10 bucks a month, the company providesthe modem. I haven't seen the details of the plan but she watches a lot of netflix and youtube, like many many hours a day. I was sharing it with her for several months before I moved and we never had any problems running out of data.
posted by mareli at 12:53 PM on August 10, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I just found this for New Mexico, I think that's how my friend got in in Georgia.
posted by mareli at 12:55 PM on August 10, 2021 [1 favorite]

(It got lost in the editing -- I'm aware that $20-$50 per month can still be well outside their budget, but just wanted to note that if you haven't checked prices in a while, standalone cable internet no longer is priced at 90% the price of a bundle.)

You can also buy your own modem, which gets you out of paying a modem rental fee, which makes sense if you have the upfront cash.
posted by yuwtze at 1:17 PM on August 10, 2021

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