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A cellular hotspot is not a substitute for a real broadband plan

By Mike Fox
Posted Tuesday, February 17, 2015

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Pittsboro, NC - When you have a device like a Dish Hopper or an iPad or even a Windows or Macintosh computer attached to the network, they are usually programmed to do large downloads in the background (like Windows/MacOS updates or Netflix previews or dropbox synching if you use that service) when attached to WiFi. All these devices assume that being on WiFi means you're on broadband with unlimited data. If you use a Verizon hotspot or similar device with data caps to provide your WiFi, your devices do not know this and can suck your data plan dry in no time.

For this reason, in my opinion, a Verizon hotspot, no matter how fast it is or how well it works, is not a substitute for a real broadband plan unless you pony up for some pretty big data limits. If it's all you can get then it's better than nothing obviously, but if you can get broadband that's better. Any money you think you're saving over broadband costs will get sucked up in data overage charges.

If you do have to use a Verizon (or some other carrier) hotspot as your home internet, there are precautions you can take. I know on Verizon (and I assume on others), you can set your account to text you a warning when 50% of the data for the plan month has been consumed, then another when 75%, then another when 90%, etc. So if you get these warnings sooner than expected, start shutting stuff down and looking for the data user. There is a free program you can download called NetBalancer that can monitor data usage on a windows machine, and it's very informative! If you have an iPhone or iPad Verizon has a widget that shows you your plan usage as a temperature bar on your notifications screen. I assume they also have one for Android devices.

Verizon has been very good in my experience being accommodating when you accidentally go over if you call them before the plan month is up. For example they'll let you retroactively raise your data plan for the current plan month, so that instead of overage charges, you pay the base rate for the higher plan. At least they are the first time. If you make a habit of it, they get stricter.


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A cellular hotspot is not a substitute for a real broadband plan