Don wants to know about FreedomPop
We are “snowbirds” who fly from Michigan to Florida and are wondering what “FREDOMPOP” is and if it would provide Wi-Fi free for us. I’ve seen mixed reviews and I am confused about how it works. I’ve been a life time subscriber and trust you totally. You helped this old “geezer” many a time. Thanks, Don.
Hi Don. When FreedomPop was introduced back in April — we wrote it up and since it was brand new, it sounded like it may be work looking into. Well here it is almost 8 months later, and like so many other ideas that seemed great in the beginning, FreedomPop has evolved into something else.
I checked on FreedomPop’s coverage area and found its coverage to be limited. They guarantee you up to 500MB of bandwidth free, but I was curious about the “up to” part – more digging was needed. It seems they “Throttle” free users — i.e. slow them down to give the best speeds to paying customers.
Another thing I was skeptical of is there is not much information on their Web site – and I was not able to find any coverage maps or plan pricing, nor was I able to find any MiFi device pricing. So my first thought was — what are they hiding?
We had to do some digging and what we found tells us you should steer clear of FreedomPop. It sounds like a bad deal to us.
My reservations about FreedomPop is that they’re secretive about their plans and pricing. Perhaps they just want you to call to find out and sell you a plan on the phone. I don’t know. I’ve never used either one, although I have used a Sprint MiFi and was pretty happy with it. I rented the Sprint MiFi from a condo I was staying in in Florida — (no it’s not my condo! Heavens, I couldn’t afford a tent!)
After further digging around about FreedomPop I came up with the following (not from FreedomPop’s site):
“FreedomPop offers a USB stick for a $49 deposit, or a portable hotspot for $89, both refundable minus the cost of shipping. The stick plugs into any PC or Mac, so it’s a good option if you’re often out and about with a laptop and there’s no Wi-Fi around. The hotspot provides wireless data for up to eight Wi-Fi-enabled devices at a time, so it makes more sense if you’ve got tablets or portable gaming devices to connect. Just keep in mind that it only gets about six hours on a charge.
FreedomPop is also taking pre-orders on sleeves for the fourth-generation iPod Touch, iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S. These sleeves do not provide voice or text service (though you can use VoIP services such as Skype). They simply work the same way as the portable hotspot, providing data for up to eight devices, including the iPhone or iPod itself….”
Where does the data come from and where does it work?
FreedomPop piggybacks on Sprint’s 3G network and Clearwire’s 4G WiMax networks, but doesn’t offer nationwide coverage. Instead, coverage is available in 71 markets.
FreedomPop claims to offer 4G data speeds, but until 4G LTE becomes available next year, the network relies on the slower WiMax standard instead. Even then, the fastest speeds are only available to users who pay $3 per month for a speed boost. Free users get throttled…”
But wait,, there’s more:
Now, a 4 gig plan is $28.99.. quite high for only 4 gig. something else to note. its all BETA. This is also in your agreement, so it sounds like you are actually buying the equipment: In order to use the Broadband Service and Value Added Services, you are required to purchase Equipment made available by FreedomPop.
Now they add insult to injury by requiring you to sign a two year contract if you decide to go with a service: Extended Term Plan. In order to receive more favorable pricing, some of the Broadband Service Monthly Plans that we offer require you to maintain Broadband Service with FreedomPop for a minimum period, usually two (2) years
You provide credit card info upfront for when you go over.. you can bet most anyone will be going over in a very short time. They round up for charing.. ie., if you use 1.22 gig of bandwidth, they charge you 1.3 ..sneaky.
Read further.. if you use the free service, they automatically deduct .99 to keep status active. If you cancel free for a period of time, you pay $19.99 to start it back up.
Oh.. wait.. there is more.. Stated prices for the Services do not include applicable sales taxes, surcharges, fees or other government or regulatory charges, which may include without limitation, mandatory surcharges for federal and state Universal Service Fund contributions, state and local 911 fees, and cost recovery surcharges. No idea what that is, but it adds up, trust me.
Now, back to that equipment lease, the info on that is difficult to understand in the fine print, but from what I can see, if you return it, they only accept returns if you have been using the equipment and if it is within the first year. Then, you have to wait 90 days for the return of your money.
My advice? RUN. Don’t even consider FreedomPop.
I have one suggestion for you as a viable alternative to FreedomPop.
NetZero 200MB free – you buy more bandwidth more money. This is typical pre-paid service. You pay as you go. See this page. The coverage areas are better than FreedomPop — you can get 1 GB of bandwidth for $19.95 / month. It’s pay as you go — no contracts. You do need to buy their MiFi device. The “Hotspot” is a one-time price of $49.95 and lets you connect up to 8 devices simultaneously. NetZero pretty much puts everything out there for you to see — I like that. It eliminates unwanted surprises later.
Keep in mind that 200MB and 500MB are not much in the way of bandwidth. If all you’re going to do is check and send emails and do a little web browsing then you should be okay with 500MB or 1GB. But if you plan on heavy internet usage you’re probably going to be looking at around 2GB to 4GB of data transfer a month.
Just based on the information that NetZero puts upfront – and FreedomPop hides, I’d go with NetZero.
Hope this helps you and others who may be traveling away from home this winter.