It's ironic really. I'm in what could be considered one of the birth places of the modern Internet and yet I can't get Internet access. As soon as I stepped off the plane, the data on my phone stopped working and it effectively became a dead weight in my pocket.
I'm in Silicon Valley on a work trip. The birth place of many of the Internet brands and names which we all know today. My hotel is a stones throw away from McAffee and Intel, with Google, Apple, and AMD just short drive.
Sure my hotel has WiFi and when I'm in the office the company has WiFi, but as soon as I step outside of these islands of connectivity I'm cut off from the internet and instantly geographically displaced. I'm pretty much lost. I find myself uncertain of my location and not entirely sure where I'm heading.
I learnt to map read when I was ten, I know I can do it. The problem is I don't actually have a map. I don't carry one anymore. I've come to rely on my mobile device to have the map for me, and when it doesn't. I feel a bit like a floundering fish. This I can overcome, with some scribbled notes and a constant chanting of directions. "Out turn left, third on the right" (repeat).
But what really irks, what stings, is being instantly cut off from family and friends. Most of my communication now happens over a data connection. From Viber and WhatsApp (I've both) to Skype messages, email, Twitter, FaceBook and FaceTime - it all goes via data. When the data stops it goes silent very quickly. I'm instantly on my own.
Running the numbers
I've started looking at ways to solve this problem, to obtain mobile internet. At home my typical mobile data usage is roughly 4 gigbytes a month, I use it alot - from podcast and streaming using to video calls. I'm in the US for roughly 3 weeks which translates to roughly 3 gigabytes of data or 3072 megabytes.
Turing on my data here in the US isn't an option. While travelling in the US it costs me €5.08 or $6.67(USD) a megabyte. Turning that into real money - that's €15,605.76 or $20,490.24 (USD) for my normal data usage! - My eyes watered just writing that.
So what are the options?
My mobile phone is locked to my Irish carrier (3 Ireland), so I can't swap the sim-card. But what would work would be a mobile wifi hotspot or MiFi as they are known.
One of the best options around at the moment is FreedomPop. It's a 4g WiFi converter (MiFi) which you can carry with you. It'll provide a WiFi access which would allow me to connect my mobile device to it. More importantly they provide 3 gigbytes of data as free for the first month when you sign up. It sounds ideal.
I'd love to borrow one for the time I'm here. I'd even pay for the rental of it and return it at the end of the trip. There were be little point in taking it back to Ireland - I couldn't use it, and to top it all off I only stumbled across FreedomPop on my last week here.