Sunday, March 3, 2019

Upping the Internet Ante

So for the past couple of weeks, you might recall that I was suffering from a mild case of Captain Trips. Suffice to say, I’ve recovered, so let’s move on.

One of my perennial rants is my home internet connection, and there’s been some incremental developments that I thought I would expound upon here today. Back at the end of January, Mint Mobile increased their 10Gb data plan to 12Gb. That’s 12Gb of 4G/LTE data for $25* per month. I use two of those plans for my home internet, so I get 24Gb for $50* per month… Which is less than the non-promotional rate that Spectrum charges ($65.99) for their unbundled 100/10 internet.

(*Full disclosure: To get the $25/month price you actually have to pay for a full year in advance which is really $300/year, and if you get 2 of them, that’s a whopping $600! It’s a bit of a commitment, and honestly I wouldn’t recommend it unless you really hated your landline internet provider.)

Quick backstory: I used to bounce back and forth between DSL and cable whenever they raised prices, and prices ranged between $25 and $50 per month. After the shitheads at Spectrum bought out Time Warner Cable, they jacked up my internet from $40 to $60 per month. They claimed the promotional 12 month rate had passed, but that was a lie. My promotional rate of $30 had run out the prior year.

After canceling Spectrum, I was further shocked to discover that AT&T would no longer allow for new signups for DSL in my neighborhood. Left feeling cornered and violated by a twisted power drunk monopoly, I was forced to tether my mobile phone’s data plan while I sought out possible options.

I ended up buying a T-Mobile hotspot device and plan. It was $50/month for 10Gb of 4G/LTE data. The plan advertised that you would get 3G data after you used up your 4G data, but the store kind of did a bait and switch, and it was really just 2G data speeds, which is highly limited in its usefulness.

Not long after, I discovered Mint Mobile, an MVNO that uses T-Mobile’s network. They offered the same deal but at half the price of T-Mobile, and their SIM card would work in my hotspot device. Fast forward to today, and I’ve got a better hardware setup and 2 Mint Mobile SIM cards that get rotated every 15 days.

How’s the speed? Not bad. Online bandwidth tests are unreliable for mobile data, but I can easily watch 1080p videos with no buffering. I’m guessing it varies between 15 to 45Mbps. The bigger problem is things using up bandwidth when I don’t want it to. I’m paying for each Gigabyte, so speed is NOT a problem. The data plan limit— that’s still the biggest problem.

One of the most important things you have to do is to find and use every trick in the book that minimizes data usage, and that can take some getting used to. I’m talking about watching YouTube videos at 240p, using Chrome’s “Data Saver” feature, using ad blockers, video blockers, and realizing that some sites just aren’t worth it. If you can’t budget very well, this is not the plan for you.

I also look to augment my data whenever possible. Mint occasionally has these promotions where you can get 3 months of their 8Gb plan for just $20. That’s an extra 8Gb/month at 84¢/Gb! Woohoo! I bought one last December, and I just got another one Thursday. When they’re used up, I just toss’em out.

Weirdest quirk— Mint Mobile’s IP addresses default to locating me in Philadelphia even though I live in Dayton. Online shopping and search results that localize their content frequently show me non relevant results, and sadly, YouTube TV won’t let me sign up for their service until I “get home”.

What about reliability? I realize that the T-Mobile network is frequently criticized for not having the best coverage, but I have a connection that has proven itself to be incredibly stable and reliable. I’ve got a computer, a netbook, 6 smart bulbs, 2 echo dots, and a cellphone. None of them ever complain about their connection.

What’s the biggest inconvenience? Mint Mobile 4g/LTE plans only go up to 12Gb/month. If you need more data, you could pay them $20 for a 3Gb extension which is crazy-expensive, or you could buy a separate plan and swap out the SIM cards like I do.

Swapping the cards isn’t exactly hard, but it’s not particularly convenient either, and while my modem doesn’t seem to mind the frequent swaps, its obvious that frequent swapping was never the intent of the design. I’m currently on the lookout for a better system, but honestly I just wish that Mint Mobile would provide higher data plans or allow users to share their data plans among multiple SIMs.

So for right now, it would seem that $2.08/Gb is the cheapest LTE data that doesn’t require a contract, restrict how you use it, or force you to buy into “family plans”. Let me know in the comments below if there are any other deals that I should be aware of because I believe people need alternatives to the price gouging monopolies that Americans are forced to contend with.

One last note: All of Mint Mobile’s plans are technically “unlimited”. After you use up the 4G/LTE data, your internet speed drops down to 2G speed which is a hard maximum of 128kbps. It’s hit or miss as to whether or not a website is usable at that speed. Sites like Flush Twice will still load just fine, but the moment any site tries to use audio or video, you might as well hang it up.

Hey, I hope you found this week’s “rant” interesting. While I always manage to put something up here every week, I actually put some effort into this one. Oh, and Spectrum, if you’re reading this: Go fuck yourselves you price jacking fuckers, and you can shove your overpriced “bundles” up your arseholes too.


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2 Responses to Sunday, March 3, 2019

  1. The oldest rater says:

    Back in the day of DSL, my family used to use something called “Download Helper” to buffer stuff that needed faster playback than the connection could offer. Might be worth a look.

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