Right now I’m on Sprint.  After getting my new Acer Aspire One (AA1) super-mobile mini laptop, I went to sprint and upgraded my Pantech PX-500 broadband data card to a Sierra Wireless USB broadband data card.  Normally the card is $249.99 but I got it for $0 by extending my plan 2 years.

My 3G data plan through Sprint costs $59.99/mo.  I know, that’s an insane amount for a broadband Internet connection, and it’s not going to appeal to many people, but here’s why having a broadband data service is useful to me:

  • I don’t trust public WiFi networks
  • Even if I trusted public WiFi networks or used SSH tunnels for privacy/security, WiFi networks are not available everywhere, are finicky to connect to, and SSH tunneling through to my home network would require that I have a guaranteed network connection at home and a server to route my connections (how bad would that suck if I’m traveling or on the road and can’t securely get Internet access because A) the power is out at home, B) my router is down, C) my server is down, etc)

With a broadband data service, I can get very fast connections practically everywhere I can get phone service.  That means I can be sitting on a bench in a park and be updating blogs, managing web sites, sending emails, and generally being fully mobile.  Combined with my 6-cell AA1, which lasts up to 6 hours on battery, and is extrenely light (under 3lbs), you can imagine I can spend a whole day working fairly easily just about anywhere I choose too.

OK, so what does this have to do with my not getting an iPhone?

Well, I also have a data plan on my smartphone, which is $15/mo for unlimited access, at the same speed as my data card.  Guess how much unlimited on AT&T costs?  $35/mo.  Ouch.  So those of you surfing “unlimited” on iPhones, you’re paying $20/mo more than me.  That’s not the worst of it.  My data plan on Sprint is unlimited for $59.99.  How much does unlimited on AT&T cost?  Well, there is no unlimited on AT&T.  They charge $60/mo and include 5GB (gigabytes) data transfer with their plan and, after that, they charge $0.00048/KB.

Hm, doesn’t sound like much extra but here’s some math for you:

If you used 10GB worth of bandwidth (5GB over what’s included in the plan), you would pay:

5 x 1000 x 1024 x $0.00048 = $2,457.60.


That’s kind of expensive for 5GB.

So some of you might say “OK, then I’ll get the $35 ‘unlimited’ data plan for my iPhone and use the iPhone as a modem. Aha!”.  Um, no.  AT&T has a “tethered” plan (what they call using your phone as a modem), which is $65/mo, which sounds a little better than my $15 + $59.99, but there’s still that nasty little $0.00048/KB “fine print”.  If you use either option in Canada, it gets worse, AT&T charges just a little more than 3x more.  So if I had either of those plan options, traveled up to Canada, and downloaded 5GB worth of data above what’s included, I would be slammed with a whopping $7,200 bill the next month.

Apparently it costs AT&T $60 + $7,200 to send you a DVD’s worth of data over their 3G network if you happen to be in Canada.  So if I had a Netflix account for $4.99 and happened to want to download a DVD movie to watch in my hotel room, Netflix would charge me $4.99 and AT&T would charge me $7,219.20.

So, as you can see, $59.99/mo doesn’t sound so bad after all.

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