Tuesday, April 3, 2012

A Frugal Attorney Becomes His Own Wi-Fi Hot Spot. The NL Reviews Netzero.


Recently, I purchased an iPad to use primarily in daily law practice.  I convinced myself that I desperately needed the device to become a more efficient attorney. (At least that's what I told my wife. Frankly, I am running out of good excuses for my impulse buys.  You try to explain why you needed a replica phonograph that played mp3s, records, cassettes and cds.  Apparently,"I needed something that I could use to listen to my old Bar Bri tapes" does not fly as a good reason.)

Truth be told, the iPad has been a tremendous time saver for me.  Gone are the days where I need to search out a copy machine in the local court house.  These days, I simply scan documents with my iPad and email them as a PDF to my office.  Calls to my secretary to check on a date have been replaced with the click of a calendar app which syncs with our firm's Clio practice management program and my Google calendar.  I have "apps" that make it easier to tabulate child support figures.  The Connecticut General Statutes are available to me at the touch of a finger.  Using Clio, I can even scan a QR Code on a client file and a page opens on my iPad with the client's info.  


Of course, in order for me to get the full use out of the bells and whistles of my i Pad, I often need internet access.  But alas, most court houses do not offer free "wi-fi."  So what's a cheapskate to do?  I blew a wad of money on my i-Pad.  Do I really want it sucking even more money out of me?  I only needed a little bandwith to check emails and update my calendar.  It wasn't enough to justify entering into a pricey monthly contract with a national provider.

I decided I no longer wanted to seek out the local Starbucks to gain access to a wireless signal. I wanted to be able to access the internet from wherever I was for free.  Is that so much to ask?  I'm a nice guy.  I deserve it.     


After reading an article about a New York ad agency's ridiculous idea to turn homeless people into walking "wi-fi hotspots", I made my choice.  My conundrum was solved.   As long as it didn't require attaching a satellite dish to my head, I would become a mobile wi-fi hotspot with the help of Netzero.


You may remember Netzero from the days you would access the internet with a dial up.  Netzero is back but without that screeching modem sound you used to hear when connecting to the internet.  (You know the sound. It sounded like someone sitting on a cat while simultaneously scratching a chalkboard while listening to a Mariah Carey record backwards).    


The new Netzero is providing 200 MB of monthly wireless broadband data for free for a year with no contracts.  OK, not quite free.   In order to get the free broadband you have to buy a device.  The USB stick version costs $49.95.  The portable hotspot will cost you $99.95.  For most users, 200 MB is probably not enough.  But if you need it just to check your email, etc.  it's a bargain.   Not enough data for you? There are other options available.  Currently the company offers:
  • Free 200 MB per month
  • $9.95 per month for 500MB,
  • $19.95 for 1GB,
  • $34.95 for 2GB
  • $49.95 for 4GB.
Granted, there are other services available that offer more bandwith for a price.  But I didn't need unlimited data.  I want to keep my costs down. I just wanted to be able to check my email and update my calendar.   I wasn't planning to download a movie.  I know Virgin offers a plan for $50 bucks a month for unlimited access.  Fifty dollars a month was a great deal.  But it's still $50 out of my budget or $600 a year.  I would rather put that money into buying something more practical.  $600 could buy me a new copier.  Or maybe 600 lotto tickets.  Or a replica phonograph that plays cassettes as well as records.  You know, something practical. 

    Taking It For a Spin
The NetZero Hotspot is less than the
width of a standard business card
I decided to try out the Netzero's 4G Hotspot device.  It can connect 8 devices to the internet at once.  Measuring 3.4 by 3.4, the device weighs a little over 4 ounces.   It doesn't take up much room in my briefcase.  On one charge, it lasted over 6 hours for me.  


I took my Hotspot with me to the Waterbury Superior Court.  It was surprisingly easy to use.  Clicking the power button the large LCD screen indicated how much battery life I had left and the strength of the signal I was receiving.  It also indicated the amount of data being transferred.  The password to the wireless network also appears on the screen. Turning on my iPad, it immediately recognized the wireless network provided by my Hotspot device.  You can even control the speed that the data is received.  Lightspeed limits your downloads to 1Mbps, while Warpspeed allows you to reach 10Mbps.  In a sense, with lower speeds you can basically squeeze more toothpaste out of the tube.  A fellow barrister sitting next to me had his laptop.  Smiling, I asked him if he wanted to "access my hotspot".   For some reason, he immediately moved away from me.  

So is this product for you?  It depends how often you need to access the web when you are out and about.  It also depends where you are located.  The service does not cover the entire country.  If all you need is 1GB or less of mobile broadband per month, the 4G HotSpot is not a bad choice. If you need more broadband, you might want to check out Virgin.  For $50 bucks, you get unlimited access.   You can also explore other options like "tethering" your cell phone or opening up your own Starbucks.  It didn't matter if I had my laptop or my tablet computer with me.  I could use the Netzero hotspot device for either one. For me, Netzero was the perfect solution.  

9 comments:

Ellen T. Wright, CRP said...

We lowly ones who serve the exalted attorneys also have such things in order to better render service, oh, master of our universe. It makes keeping contact with law firms, paralegals, and attorneys much easier when we are out in the field chasing down people who don't want to be served, documents that, for some reason, people don't want to give us, addresses that turn out to be bogus, and assorted other difficulties and frustrations-and well as just letting you know that, hey, we did finish the task and met the deadline!

Anonymous said...

Here is the catch from the small print on the NetZero website:

"Access to the Free plan from a specific device EXPIRES (AND MAY NOT BE RENEWED) TWELVE (12) MONTHS FROM THE DATE OF INITIAL REGISTRATION, or upon upgrading to a paid plan."

Anonymous said...

Ting offers a nice phone plan (minimum $6/mo. for account) where you pay for only the features, including wifi hotspot services, you use. You do have to buy a phone, but if you need one anyway, that is another option.
Jean Binkovitz, JD
Licensed in Minnesota

Deborah Savadra said...

I've been looking at TruConnect recently (http://www.truconnect.com/plans/) -- very similar service, but the pricing is structured without any "bundles." In other words, you pay only for the bandwidth you use.

Anne Stuart said...

I've been getting positive feed backs from friends regarding TruConnect. I myself have a different service. Sometimes I wished I chose TruConnect.

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