The more you share your personal hotspot, the more free internet usage you get from Karma. In theory, if you are a social person, you can have free internet forever.
Cheap internet options are springing up like daisies in April. Please meet Karma, the a company who has come up with its own unique cheap internet plan.
Unlike income-based cheap internet programs such as Internet Basics or Internet Essentials, Karma is what we call a “non-income-based” program. In other words, your ability to qualify for Karma is completely unrelated to your income level.
Karma offers a unique three-step approach:
Step #1: You pay a very affordable, one-time up-front fee of $149 (there may be $99 deals for new customers) for your own personal hotspot device
Step #2: You pay just $10-14 for each gigabyte you consume
Step #3: You can earn free internet access by sharing your personal hotspot with friends, neighbors and even strangers.
Now let’s take a closer look at those three prongs so you understand exactly how the Karma program works.
Step #1: You pay a very affordable, one-time up-front fee of $149 (or less) for your own personal hotspot device
When you sign up for Karma, you’re required to buy a small, inexpensive Karma hotspot device. How small? Well, it measures just 2.6 inches by 2.6 inches x 1/2-inch and weighs just 2.1 ounces). How inexpensive? It costs just $149 and that includes your first 1.5 gigabyte of internet use.
Without getting into any overly-technical nitty gritty, this pint-sized device connects to the internet via Sprint’s LTE 4G network and then creates a wifi hotspot that goes where you go, to which you automatically connect your wifi devices (smartphones, tablets, notebooks, etc). The connection is the same as it would be in any wifi hotspot, such as a coffee shop or the library.
It can also be shared among up to eight devices.
Step #2: Pay just $14 for each gigabyte you consume
Karma’s pay-as-you-go concept is very simple. You pay $14 for every gigabyte you consume, and when used up, order another gigabyte. If you’re a light internet user, that $14 may last many months. If you’re a medium user, it may be weeks to a month. If you are a heavy internet user, Karma will be too expensive for you, and you’d be better off with Netzero or FreedomPop’s low-price, high usage plan. But for light to medium use customers, it’s a heck of a bargain compared to many of the internet plans currently being offered.
If you purchase more gigabytes in bulk, you can get your bandwidth cheaper:
- $59 for 5GB
- $99 for 10GB
Karma realizes that most people don’t really understand how much they can do with a gigabyte, so it explains that the average person uses just 500 megabytes (half a gigabyte) per device per month. The company says a gigabyte is enough to:
- Send and receive 500 emails with 2MB attachments
- Watch 50 high-quality 4 minute videos
- Listen to 8 hours of high quality streamed music
- Check over 1000 pages on your favorite websites
We’re not sure that these examples accurately reflect what an “average user” goes through in a month; it’s more like a light user in our opinion.
You can expect to download data at average speeds of between 6-8 Mbps with peaks up to 25Mbps, and see upload speeds of 1-3Mbps. This is better than many of the other low-income or low-priced programs. If you are not in a Sprint LTE area, you will fall back to a slower CDMA 3G speed.
But Karma adds another very interesting wrinkle to its program: you can earn free internet access. It’s possible, in fact, that you may never have to buy another gigabyte.
Step #3: Earn free internet access by sharing your personal hotspot with friends, neighbors and even strangers
Like most hotspot devices, multiple users can connect to it to receive internet simultaneously. But while these other hotspots require a password to log in, Karma uses their “social bandwidth” concept to allow others – up to eight users, friends, neighbors, relatives, even total strangers – to connect without you having to provide a password.
We’ll tell you why this is a good thing in a moment, but first understand that it will all be transparent to you and won’t impact your user experience at all. When one of those friends, neighbors, or total strangers signs onto the internet via your hotspot, Karma will take care of their account creation.
So why is it a good thing for you to have an open, public hotspot that others can freely use? Because anytime a new user signs onto your hotspot, Karma each of you 100 MB of bandwidth absolutely free. The more you share, the more you get. Obviously, this creates a huge incentive to sign up for Karma ASAP in order to pile up those bonus MBs from everyone who signs up later.
And as Karma’s plans come true, your friends, neighbors and even total strangers will not need to buy their own Karma devices. If the program expands quickly enough, they can always use the increasing number of nearby Karma hotspots.
The chinks in Karma’s armor
Karma’s approach to cheap internet is very interesting, but we see a few potential problems.
First, Karma may not be a great option unless your usage is very low or unless you live in a high density city and are social enough to bring new people into the Karma program.
Second, we think Karma may be too late to the cheap internet access party. The company’s entire concept is based on the theory that free wifi access is difficult, if not impossible, to find in today’s world. We’re not sure we agree with that premise, what with all the free internet access available at coffee shops, restaurants, citywide networks, etc, but it’s quite possible that the folks at Karma are a lot smarter than we are.
Third, there’s the security issue. Most people understand the risk inherent in connecting to unknown and unsecured networks, and have been trained to avoid them, and at this point, unknown is exactly what Karma is. When strangers see your Karma name pop up on the list of nearby wireless networks, we think most would be afraid to connect to it at this point unless they have heard of Karma. We certainly wouldn’t if we didn’t know the name. Perhaps this issue will fade if the Karma concept spreads far enough, wide enough, and quickly enough, but until then the security issue remains.
Karma may not be perfect, but very little in life achieves that status. Nevertheless, the company does offer an inexpensive way to get online devices online when you can’t find free public wifi.
Karma is already available across the country in more than 300 cities, using the Sprint LTE network. This network is tried and true, used by many internet resellers.
Our bottom line: If you don’t use much bandwidth, other options aren’t available to you, and you live in one of the company’s network area, check out Karma. It may be exactly what you need.
But if you can be sure you won’t go over a 1GB of usage a month, you’ll get free internet with FreedomPop’s home internet plan, and if you can stay under 500 MB a month, you’ll get it free with FreedomPop mobile internet plan.
We love the whole idea of Karma, and hope it really catches on.
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