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Cheapest & best internet access, for laptop, for N, E, & S of Denver, CO?

Work is so iffy, right now, and gas is so $$$, so I'm looking for ways to save money, if possible.

Verizon charges $60/month, with a 5 gigabyte monthly limit, to use a Verizon "broadband card" to access the internet-- but it's getting to be too expensive for me.

Also, my used broadband card was acting up at times, last season, &/or Verizon reception was pretty iffy even on I-70 & I-76, etc., out N, E & S of Denver. Frustrating, and lost me time.

Does anyone here use (non-Verizon) other CHEAPER, yet GOOD SIGNAL internet choices, for broadband cards for Eastern Colorado, for their laptops in their cars?

Also, what about using a new (?cheap) cell phone as a modem, for my used laptop? Would that get me any good reception out away from Denver? Would it save me money?

I'm open to all ideas! (other than putting my own radar antenna on top of car...)

Thanks in advance!

Carol in Colorado (watching a snowstorm up here near Fraser)
cell: 970-531-5000
[email protected]
 
Millenicom hands down. I have been using it for two months now. When I ordered the service I had the modem the next day. I have been very pleased.
 
Since I'm not working much due to the economy, I'd like to pay a lot less than $60 per month for internet access. Does anyone know of a cheaper way to be able to get internet service, on the road, for my laptop?

I also had some intermittent problems last summer, either with Verizon's spotty service, (N & E of Denver), &/or maybe with my used Novatel USB 727 Verizon broadband card.

(as i asked above): Also, what about using a new (?cheap) cell phone as a modem, for my used laptop? Would that get me any good reception out away from Denver? Would it save me money?

Need more ideas!

Carol in Colorado
970-531-5000 (cell)
[email protected]
 
Last edited by a moderator:
If there was a cheaper better way to do it, I have not found it. I went with Millenicom becuase they had the best value for data, and the fact that there was no contract required so it could be turned off during months when I am not using it for chasing. As far as using phone as modem, some carriers will not let you do it, some will charge you outrageous fees, and most will have a set cap on usage with charges for overages. Back when Alltel was still around they had about the best deal for tethering, but now that Verizon has bought them out unless you have a grandfathered plan, tethering is too expensive.
 
Carol,

I'm sorry, but I don't think there is a more reliable method that is cheaper. I understand the cost is too much, but it is what it is. Unfortunately, if it's out of your price range, then you'll have to make a few sacrifices.

Millenicom is a great way to get a data plan. Then when it comes to better reception, that problem can be solved by a direct-connect amplifier ($200 +/-) or a wireless amplifier ($375 +/-). Maximum Signal is your best bet should you ever go with an amplifier.

This doesn't really fit into the realm of cheap, but if you had a smart phone, such as the iPhone, then you could run RadarScope on your phone and have plenty of data to effectively position yourself on a storm. Of course, then you will have a monthly data fee for the duration of a 2-yr contract. (Approx $20-$30 a month.)

And of course, you can absolutely chase storms with no data whatsoever. It was done for decades and there is so much to learn just by keeping your eyes on the sky versus buried on a laptop screen. You just have to accept a few limitations, but it can certainly be done.

These are the best suggestions I can come up with. No matter which route you go, I hope you get out this June/July and enjoy some Colorado storms!

Bryan
 
I found out today, that Verizon's "promotional" that I would have liked (maybe) of 3 gigs data allowance per month, for a no-contract $35 per month, went away on May 10, so I found that I was out of luck for getting that. It also would have required a mobile hotspot (like a MiFi 2200 by Verizon), that apparently didn't have an external antenna port anyway, and had mixed customer reviews.

So, I'm going to sign up for Verizon's $40 per month, stingy 250 megabyte per month, no-contract "plan", using my last year's (used) USB 727 Modem (broadband "card"), that DOES at least have an external antenna port, & hopefully is still "working".

Thanks for everyone's good ideas & helpful suggestions. I agree that I need to look at the clouds & sky & wind directions, more than just at radar maps. I watched the DVD by Mike Hollingshead, and was reminded that I have a lot to learn!

Carol in Colorado
cell: 970-531-5000
[email protected]
 
If you have an android phone, there's an app called "Easy Tether" that lets you use your phone as a modem for no additional charge. It doesn't work quite as well as an actual data card plan. For example, it doesn't like to load my bank login page. Probably something to do with the secure connection it needs to load is my guess. But for loading GR3 scans and getting model data, it works better than nothing.
 
I've been tethering to my cell phones for the past 4 seasons with no problems. Verizon offers the tethering plans for $20 a month and you can turn the option off and on as you please. And as mentioned, rooting an Android phone gets around the $20 a month thing, so not too shabby...It's worked for me at least.
 
Scott, can you talk on your cell phone, at the same time that it is tethered to your laptop? I thought that wouldn't work.

I already have a Motola Barrage (not a smart-phone), so theoretically I would have to buy a used Droid (VZN), to tether to my laptop.

Does your tethering cell phone have an external antenna port, for low signal areas?

I just asked some theoretical questions to a Verizon person (probably level 1 tech support), who said that even if I were to buy a used Android Verizon cell phone, and even if I downloaded the "Easy Tether" application onto a used Droid phone, that Zach wrote about --Thank you, Zach!--, I would still have to pay an extra $30/month for a "data plan", because the Droid is a "smart phone".

How many gigabytes per month does the downloaded "Easy Tether" application allow? The VZN lady said their Verizon $20/month tethering plan allows 2 gigs/month data (which the Easy Tether app. would get around the $20/mo. charge).

Then, the VZN person added that I'd have to pay more money for adding a single phone line, seperate from my existing line (so that I wouldn't lose my existing service plan for my non-smart cell phone). She gave an example of another $20/month (contract) just to get 50 minutes a month!

Unless she's totally wrong on her info (always a possibility, since I get different info from each VZN person I speak to!!!), it looks like I might save $$ by getting the 250 megabyte per month (month to month--no contract) "plan", for $39.99 ($40) per month, and if I go over the 250 megabyte limit, paying 10 cents per additional megabyte used, for that month.

This way, I could re-use (activate) my last year's VZN broadband card/modem (VZN USB 727), and see what happens, month to month.

I have an old antenna & booster setup I could try, when not in danger of being hit by lightning, to see if it helps in low signal areas.

I'm open to all ideas and feedback!

Carol in Colorado
cell: 970-531-5000
[email protected]
 
Scott, can you talk on your cell phone, at the same time that it is tethered to your laptop? I thought that wouldn't work.

I already have a Motola Barrage (not a smart-phone), so theoretically I would have to buy a used Droid (VZN), to tether to my laptop.

Does your tethering cell phone have an external antenna port, for low signal areas?

I just asked some theoretical questions to a Verizon person (probably level 1 tech support), who said that even if I were to buy a used Android Verizon cell phone, and even if I downloaded the "Easy Tether" application onto a used Droid phone, that Zach wrote about --Thank you, Zach!--, I would still have to pay an extra $30/month for a "data plan", because the Droid is a "smart phone".

How many gigabytes per month does the downloaded "Easy Tether" application allow? The VZN lady said their Verizon $20/month tethering plan allows 2 gigs/month data (which the Easy Tether app. would get around the $20/mo. charge).

Then, the VZN person added that I'd have to pay more money for adding a single phone line, seperate from my existing line (so that I wouldn't lose my existing service plan for my non-smart cell phone). She gave an example of another $20/month (contract) just to get 50 minutes a month!

Unless she's totally wrong on her info (always a possibility, since I get different info from each VZN person I speak to!!!), it looks like I might save $$ by getting the 250 megabyte per month (month to month--no contract) "plan", for $39.99 ($40) per month, and if I go over the 250 megabyte limit, paying 10 cents per additional megabyte used, for that month.

This way, I could re-use (activate) my last year's VZN broadband card/modem (VZN USB 727), and see what happens, month to month.

I have an old antenna & booster setup I could try, when not in danger of being hit by lightning, to see if it helps in low signal areas.

I'm open to all ideas and feedback!

Carol in Colorado
cell: 970-531-5000
[email protected]

I tether using an HTC Thunderbolt which is the first and I believe, only phone on Verizon that can do voice and data at the same time. If you're not willing to pay for a data plan on a smart phone, then tethering is definitely not the way to go. I guess my suggestion would be to try Millenicom for a data card plan. They seem to be getting good praise and don't lock you into a contract.
 
I'd urge against taking a 250Mb cap. A busy chase day will eat that up. Apart from the suggestions that you've already been given, I've got one slightly sleazy one.... Confirm with Verizon what their money-back guarantee is. I think it's 30 days. Activate the 5Gb/month plan "to see if you like it". If you don't like it I'm pretty sure you can cancel at no charge.

IMO definitely use an exterior mag-mount antenna for your 727, with or without booster. That alone should considerably improve your service. While I think that the lightning risks are small, if you're uncomfortable at some point, just pop off the antenna connector. Also, if you haven't already done so get a USB extension cable so you can position the aircard better. such as Velcro'd to a visor.

Disclaimer: I have the $60/month VZW service with grandfathered unlimited usage. I have enough uses, and so far at least enough money that it's worth it.

Oh, yeah, for better coverage, before you take your 727 out on the road be sure to update the VZAccess Manager software and your aircard's PRL (via the VZAccess Manager).
 
Easy Tether allows as much data as your phone's data plan allows, so in many cases that will be 5GB. I don't use the data on my phone for watching video or streaming audio, so I have most of that available.

The phone I have does not have external antenna support, so I'm limited to whatever signal my phone can pick up. It works the majority of the time, but I haven't had a chance to really put it to the test. The only way to boost the signal (unless you can find a Droid model that supports it) would be to have one of those wireless boosters that amplify the cell signal inside your car.

Easy Tether is an app that does NOT require you to root your phone (aka voiding your warranty). You install the app on the phone, and a second app on your laptop. The laptop app communicates your requests to the phone app, and the phone app accesses the internet (like any other online android app) on behalf of the computer, and the relays the data back. You have to keep the phone in "USB debugging" mode, but that doesn't affect the phone at all.

For me Easy Tether is a good temporary option, because I already had an android phone and a data plan. Eventually, once finances allow, I want to get a USB data card and a seperate plan which will in theory work somewhat more reliably, as well as having the option for boost antennae.

So in a Cost/month/MB sense (for you):
250MB/month plan = $0.16/month/MB + $0.10 per additional MB
Verizon Tether plan = $0.01/month/MB
Droid data plan w Easy Tether = $0.006/month/MB (May need to pay for a new phone, unless you can get one for free somewhere)

The first two may be slightly more reliable than the Easy Tether, but the Easy Tether is the least expensive option (if you can find a droid phone for cheap or free)
 
Thanks again for all your helpful advice! At this time, I'll try (if it's still working) to re-activate my 727 broadband card), using external antenna & maybe booster, if needed, with VZN's wimpy 250 megabyte/month, $40/mo. non-contract month to month plan.

This way, I won't have to buy a new or used droid phone at this time, & won't have to sign a contract for a data plan ($30/month), needed with "smart" phones. And, I'll have external antenna capability with my 727 modem/broadband card.

Downside, is a $35 charge for re-signing up with VZN, and, taxes & surcharges are added onto the $40/mo--but at this time, I can't afford Millenicom's (cheapest) $60/mo. plans (there are 2 such $60/mo. plans):

With Millenicom, there's a $100 charge for buying a modem/broadband card (they do have a plan where you lease a modem, but if you hurt the modem, it's over $200 you'd have to pay Millenicom to replace it), a $50 initial sign-up fee, ($20 for each future re-signup, each time I'd re-sign up), and a $10 shipping fee for getting their modem from them.

So initial Millenicom charge would be $100 + $50 + $10 = $160, plus first month of $60 for the service--so 1st month would be $220, then, $60/month after that.

Since I'm close to broke, I'll temporarily opt for the $40 (plus taxes & surcharges) per month option by VZN, during the summer.

If I ever come into money, I'll have more & better options, that you all have shared!

Carol in Colorado
970-531-5000
[email protected]
 
I appreciate all advice given so far.

David, I have some questions for you (and for anyone else who would like to give me advice), that I'll put in CAPITAL LETTERS right on your responses, below:

I'd urge against taking a 250Mb cap. A busy chase day will eat that up.

YOU WERE SO RIGHT ABOUT THIS! I TRIED OUT THE MEASLEY 250 MEGABYTE PER MONTH DEAL FOR 2 DAYS, AND SAW THAT I WENT OVER MY DATA ALLOWANCE VERY QUICKLY, SO YESTERDAY, I INCREASED TO THE 5 GIGABYTES PER MONTH WITH VERIZON, FOR $60/MONTH.

------------------------

Apart from the suggestions that you've already been given, I've got one slightly sleazy one.... Confirm with Verizon what their money-back guarantee is. I think it's 30 days. Activate the 5Gb/month plan "to see if you like it". If you don't like it I'm pretty sure you can cancel at no charge.

I'VE BEEN HAVING PROBLEMS EACH OF THE 3 DAYS THAT I'VE BEEN USING MY NOVATEL USB727 IN THE LAST FEW DAYS, WITH FREQUENTLY BEING THROWN OFF THE INTERNET! THIS HAPPENED WHILE DRIVING, BUT EVEN ONCE WHEN NOT MOVING AT ALL--AND THIS HAPPENED BOTH IN RURAL AREAS EAST, SOUTHEAST, AND NORTHEAST OF DENVER, AND ALSO RIGHT IN DENVER, WHERE I'M ASSUMING THERE WAS PLENTY OF SIGNAL!!

I DIDN'T HAVE MY EXTERNAL ANTENNA ATTACHED TO MY NOVATEL USB 727, SO I'M WONDERING IF YOU &/OR OTHERS EVER GET THROWN OFF THE INTERNET FREQUENTLY BY VERIZON, WHEN NOT USING AN EXTERNAL ANTENNA.

IF I CAN'T GET THIS ISSUE FIXED WITH VERIZON, I MAY CONSIDER TRYING MILLENICOM, AND ONE NICE VZN SUPERVISOR DID SAY THAT IF I LEAVE VERIZON (FOR BROADBAND SERVICE) BY JULY 4, HE WOULD COMP ME THE $35 RE-CONNECT FEE THAT I PAID TO GET BACK TO THE MONTH TO MONTH DEAL THIS SUMMER.

---------------------

IMO definitely use an exterior mag-mount antenna for your 727, with or without booster. That alone should considerably improve your service. While I think that the lightning risks are small, if you're uncomfortable at some point, just pop off the antenna connector. Also, if you haven't already done so get a USB extension cable so you can position the aircard better. such as Velcro'd to a visor.

I AGREE! I AM USING A USB EXTENSION CABLE, SO THAT THE "AIRCARD" (MY NOVATEL USB 727 BROADBAND CARD/MODEM) CAN SIT ON THE DASHBOARD (WITH SOME SCOTCH TAPE HOLDING THE CABLE IN PLACE, SO THE MODEM WON'T SLIDE AROUND). IS THE VISOR A BETTER PLACE THAN ON THE DASHBOARD?

I'LL HAVE TO SEE IF I STILL HAVE MY OLD EXTERNAL ANTENNA, WITH THE PROPER CONNECTOR, TO WORK WITH MY NOVATEL USB 727.

ONE OF MY PREVIOUS PROBLEMS, WAS THAT THE ELECTRIC WINDOWS IN THE MINIVAN WOULD SOMETIMES CUT/KINK THE COAX, MAKING ME HAVE TO BUY A NEW ANTENNA (MORE THAN ONCE!), WHEN I HAD THE EXTERNAL ANTENNA COAX GOING UP TO THE MINIVAN'S ROOF, THROUGH THE SIDE WINDOW.

-----------------------------

Disclaimer: I have the $60/month VZW service with grandfathered unlimited usage. I have enough uses, and so far at least enough money that it's worth it.

NICE THAT YOU HAVE THAT GRANDFATHERED UNLIMITED USAGE!

I'LL PROBABLY HAVE TO CANCEL MY MONTH TO MONTH, IN SEPTEMBER, I THINK.

-------------------------

Oh, yeah, for better coverage, before you take your 727 out on the road be sure to update the VZAccess Manager software and your aircard's PRL (via the VZAccess Manager).

I BELIEVE (HOPE) THAT VERIZON TECH SUPPORT FOLKS DID THIS FOR ME THE OTHER DAY.

I'M NOT SURE WHETHER MY "USED" NOVATEL USB 727 BROADBAND CARD/MODEM IS WORKING CORRECTLY. VERIZON FOLKS DON'T KNOW HOW TO TEST IT, THEY SAY.

I'M NOT SURE WHETHER MY "USED" DELL LAPTOP IS WORKING CORRECTLY, BUT I THINK IT IS.

ONE VERIZON SUPERVISOR IN TECHNICAL SUPPORT SAID THAT HE HATED TO ADMIT THAT PEOPLE DO GET THROWN OFF THE INTERNET MORE THAN HE WISHED WAS THE CASE, AND IT HAD TO DO WITH BEING TRANSFERRED FROM ONE CELL SITE TO ANOTHER.

ANOTHER VZN GUY SAID THAT IN THE BOONIES, THAT GOING FROM A 3G TO 1X COULD CAUSE GETTING DISCONNECTED.

BUT I'VE BEEN BUMPED OFF THE INTERNET SO MANY TIMES IN THE PAST FEW DAYS, THAT IT'S REALLY FRUSTRATING! AND, SEVERAL TIMES, WHEN I GOT THROWN OFF THE INTERNET, MY LAPTOP ALSO SUDDENLY WENT INTO "HIBERNATION" MODE, AND I HADN'T PRESSED THE "OFF" BUTTON!

ANY ADDITIONAL ADVICE?

THANKS, DAVID, AND ANYONE ELSE HERE who replies!

CAROL IN COLORADO
cell: 970-531-5000
[email protected]
 
Last edited by a moderator:
Carol,

I'm sorry, but I don't think there is a more reliable method that is cheaper. I understand the cost is too much, but it is what it is. Unfortunately, if it's out of your price range, then you'll have to make a few sacrifices.

Millenicom is a great way to get a data plan. Then when it comes to better reception, that problem can be solved by a direct-connect amplifier ($200 +/-) or a wireless amplifier ($375 +/-). Maximum Signal is your best bet should you ever go with an amplifier.

This doesn't really fit into the realm of cheap, but if you had a smart phone, such as the iPhone, then you could run RadarScope on your phone and have plenty of data to effectively position yourself on a storm. Of course, then you will have a monthly data fee for the duration of a 2-yr contract. (Approx $20-$30 a month.)

And of course, you can absolutely chase storms with no data whatsoever. It was done for decades and there is so much to learn just by keeping your eyes on the sky versus buried on a laptop screen. You just have to accept a few limitations, but it can certainly be done.

These are the best suggestions I can come up with. No matter which route you go, I hope you get out this June/July and enjoy some Colorado storms!

Bryan

----------------

Great advice, Bryan!

Since I got bumped off the internet so many times in the last few days, including yesterday (Wed.), too, I was following your advice on Wed., keeping my eyes to the sky, watching the beautiful storms in the Denver area!

And, I learned that yesterday (Wed.) I probably should have gone East on I-70 to Bennett, and then, should have gone north, behind the storms, towards Prospect Valley, instead of going up NE on I-76, to Hudson.

It was amazing how fast those storms seemed to develop out east of Denver! While driving back up to the mountains, my weather radio kept having more and more severe T-storm warnings, around Greeley, etc. It was happening in Wyoming too (car radio had warnings).

I wonder if anyone saw a tornado from any of those (?supercell?) storms, on Wed.

Carol in Colorado
cell: 970-531-5000
[email protected]
 
Carol, here are some more thoughts, in no special order....

Run cords against/through the door weatherstrip, not through a window. There's enough squish/slack there in my experience to not mangle them. I've just found this year, also, that a home improvement store, i.e. HD, sells exterior grade, heavy duty electrical tape made by 3M that works well for sticking down cords in moulding channels, etc., and holds fast even through hot sun, car washes, etc.

The "hibernation" issue could be due to an old software driver for your aircard, unless you've done a fresh install. The VZ Access Manager program does a pretty good job exercising the aircard when you install, update the PRL and such. If it's happy the aircard itself is probably ok.

A few weeks ago we ran all around eastern CO, up to Nederland in the mountains, etc., with the CP 500 router, UMW 190 aircard and mag-mount antenna (no amp), and coverage only dropped south of Lamar and for a few miles east of Punkin Center. Now, unless I need to squeeze maximum data from the connection, I stream internet radio. Besides giving something nice to listen to in the boonies, it serves as a hands-free connection monitor and it avoids what could be contributing to your problem. If your connection is inactive for a little while the system forgets about you, and may even time out your dynamic IP address, resulting in open applications, browsers, etc., losing their socket connections. If you're watching bandwidth, you might try doing that with one of the SPC's mesoanalysis pages set for one-minute refresh.

Hope this helps!
 
Carol,

I was using the Novatel USB1000 with the external antenna available from VZN until my wife "upgraded" me to the MiFi 4510L when she was at the VZN store getting herself a new phone. When I read the manual on the 4510 I was disappointed to not see the external antenna port. But to my surprise I found the external antenna port DOES exist. I have successfully tested that.

Note: The antenna below is the low-cost approach, not the high-gain method mentioned earlier. But it is still better than the built-in antennas.

I paid $20 for the mag mount external antenna from VZN: http://www.verizonwireless.com/b2c/store/accessory?action=accessoryDetails&accessoryId=42670

But it requires an adapter cable ($10) that no one at VZN will know what you're talking about - you have to tell them. I think it's this one: http://www.verizonwireless.com/b2c/store/accessory?action=accessoryDetails&accessoryId=47496

I haven't thoroughly tested it remote yet since I just got my gear setup last weekend. But so far it's doing the job just fine around my local area.

I agree with David, run the cables through the doors and tape them down. Most cars have plenty of rubber moulding to protect the cables from being smashed. I have my VZN antenna and GPS antenna setup that way. Just be sure to keep the cables clear of latches, and try to find a place with least pressure to cross the rubber moulding. When I'm not chasing, I take them off and put them in the car (not disturbing the tape) to avoid theft/vandalism. My T-Bird happens to have metal speaker grills below the back seat windows that I just stick the antennas on.

Good luck!

Guy
 
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