So you're looking for free broadband Internet access? Join the club! There's been a lot of discussion over the years regarding broadband Internet being a basic human need in modern society. In other words, it should be considered a public utility. Arguments that public libraries offer free high speed Internet only meets with resistance. Many people feel that having mobile broadband has become a basic human right. This point can surely be debated, and certainly becomes very controversial.
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As this site gets a tremendous volume of visitors looking for No Contract Wireless Internet, it only makes sense for me to include information about how to get free mobile broadband, right?! There's a link at the bottom of the page that will take you to information about getting a free cell phone and service for qualifying households via the Lifeline program. So it fits nicely into the general spirit of informing visitors to this site of all available options to discuss free broadband as well. Also, unlike the free wireless phone service programs, the free broadband Internet access programs that have emerged are not government subsidized programs. They are completely new business models that seek to gain people's share of mind. Let's take a look at how they work, and summarizes their offerings! Note: Lifeline now offers free broadband, though it's currently restricted to phone access. In time providers will no doubt offer standalone mobile broadband as well!
The concept is actually quite simple. The first company to offer free service was FreedomPop. They offer a token amount of monthly data that is more than sufficient to browse the Internet and check email. Of course, if you stream videos from YouTube or watch NetFlix regularly, you'll quickly run through your allocation. Arguably, streaming video, or playing online games is not yet considered a basic human right, so the free allocation is definitely reasonable. So how can a company with this model make money and stay in business? What they do is sell usage above the monthly free access. If they sell it at reasonable, or at least competitive prices, the theory is that they can get enough paying customers to support the free portion of the service.
Also, by using MiFi Mobile Hotspot modems as their main product offering (although USB modems are also available), they keep things super simple for anyone to connect. In addition, they also have a variety of offers you can participate in to earn additional free data. As some of these relate to referring other people, it helps to spread the word to elicit new customers. As they've been around for a number of years now, all signs point towards a sustainable business model. In fact, their success led them to launch free smartphone service as well. Hopefully it will continue to be sufficiently profitable to endure over the long term!
Absolutely not! Will the business model work? Only time will tell, however, so far so good! I expect that FreedomPop has built a lot of business models that show the minimum paying subscribership that they need to be profitable. I also expect that its investors are taking a calculated risk. If their base grows very large, the company could end up selling to a larger carrier who wants those customers. In other words, if it works really well, the founders and investors could end up being very wealthy! It's interesting to note that Skype's co-founder, Niklas Zennstrom, is behind FreedomPop, so he's no stranger to turning free services into thriving and profitable businesses.
What's interesting about FreedomPop is that this is their only business (in addition to their newer smartphone offerings). It's do or die for them, so you can expect very careful management of their offers and programs. On the other hand, NetZero also provides free mobile broadband service. The big difference with them is that their company has been around for decades. That could either help them tremendously, or hurt them if they don't provide sufficient resources and focus on building out this new business.
Note, also, that NetZero is taking a different approach in terms of their offer. They are providing one year of free service for a lower speed connection, which will be fast enough for email and most Internet sites, but not fast enough for streaming video or gaming. If you want the faster data speed you'll need to pay for a monthly plan (i.e. only the slower speed is free). This is more of a trial period type of offer, and a very different and far less risky business model. If people like the service, it's very likely that you'll buy a plan well before the year is up. Also, with NetZero, once you change to a paid plan, you cannot return to the free service, and you can only get the free plan for one year. Compare that to FreedomPop, which lets you use the free monthly service in perpetuity, and simply purchase additional plans as needed. Lastly, note that neither company is using an ad-supported model, which NetZero is famous for doing in the late 90s; it required users to watch ads in order to get the free service.
The following table provides a general overview comparing the available free broadband Internet access services. Clicking on the provider's logos will take you directly to the company's website to review the details of their offers to see if any of them meet your needs!
No longer provides free broadband service; only free phone service.
|10 Hours per Month||USB
Now only offers 10 hours a month of free dial-up.
There's also an FCC regulated program that offers free and subsidized Internet via the Lifeline Broadband program. Are you interested in a free phone and service to go along with your free broadband Internet access? Learn more at Free Cell Phone Service.
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