Mobile Broadband – Not Quite There Yet

Yesterday I helped my mom buy a new laptop.  Her ACER had finally bit the dust in a blaze of fiery wireless glory (don’t ask, it will just make you sad).  I bought her a shiny new HP G-series laptop with all the bells and whistles.

Now, if we could just manage to get reliable, affordable reasonably fast wireless broadband for her, we’d finally be set.  My mother is a nomad.  She has a place in Florida for the cold months, and a small RV that she lives in the rest of the year as she travels around.  This month, she happens to have herself parked at an RV park about 20 minutes from my house.  And while she doesn’t mind heading down to the local Panera Bread or Barnes and Noble to use their wireless services, and I don’t mind if she hangs out at my house for small periods of time to use my wireless, this is far from ideal.  Two years ago I talked her into getting an AirCard from our cell provider, ATT.  You can imagine how that went.  If she could get a signal at all, it was as slow as dialup.  Most of the time the signal dropped or was simply unavailable.  And she was paying an exorbitant amount of money for the privilege of not being able to connect, around $70 a month.  My mom is retired, that’s a big chunk of money for her.  It would be a big chunk of money for me, too.  When the contract came up this week, she canceled it and is now without any type of service, other than what she can get for free.

I get my home-based broadband at a cost of $30 a month.  I have seven computers on that network on a normal day, more on others.  I get speeds around 10 mbps down and 5-6 mbps up.  That home-based broadband is brought to me by the fine folks at AT&T.  Why can’t I get something similar, wirelessly, to take care of my mother’s internet needs, at a price that won’t send her, or me, to the poorhouse?

This is the most frustrating thing for her, and by association, for me.  When she has a sleepless night and wants to get online to chat with a friend on the other side of the world, or check her email or play an online game, she can’t do it, because she has no wireless broadband available that actually works.  She is unwilling to pay $70 a month for service that is intermittent and incredibly slow, and I can’t blame her.  She has looked into other plans, from other providers, and there’s just not much out there.

Here we are, arguably the richest, most powerful nation on the planet, and we can’t seem to solve the wireless broadband question for people like my mother.  It’s hard to tout how wonderful technology is, and what’s available to all of us, when we can’t fix this very basic element of our connection to that technology.  As savvy as I am, I cannot answer the question my mother asks, about why there isn’t anything worthwhile (and economical) available. I just know there isn’t, and I don’t think I can even picture a time when this will be resolved.  And this is unfortunate.

2 thoughts on “Mobile Broadband – Not Quite There Yet

  1. You know that asking for something worthwhile and reasonable out of a telecom company is like asking the sky to turn bright pink and the sun to shine blue all the time. The telecommunications industry is disastrously behind the rest of technology because they’re behemoths, moving from a time when industry innovation meant “let’s take these same services, wrap them up in a shiny new bow, and *blammo* new product offering”.

    The problem is, they still have us over a barrel. 4G providers like ClearWire show promise, but are not widely deployed at this point. There are Wireless broadband providers out otherwise, but without a line-of-sight to their antennas, that’s no good.

    It’ll get better. Eventually. But not for a while yet. Broadband-quality access just isn’t a human right at this point, and until someone can get that movement going well enough, we’re going to be stuck with shoddy, price-gouging access.

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