Affordable Wi-Fi coverage for Canadians travelling in the United States

Mike Erlindson

I recently took a family vacation to Upstate New York. The rental cottage was nice. It was modern. Cayuga Lake was beautiful. It was only a three hour drive from our house.

But there was a problem — the cottage didn’t have any Internet access. I don’t need to play Candy Crush but I do need to be in touch. If a problem pops-up while I’m away I need to be able to solve it. Or I need to contact someone who can.

I have a TELUS Mobility roaming package but it only gave me $40 for 40 MB use over a period of one month. This is ridiculously slow because your mobile phone can eat up 10 MB per day in background activities such as weather updates, application updates, news feeds or just downloading email. And this is before you even start using the phone to surf or actively use any of your application.
I bought this package as more of insurance because of all the horror stories about excessive roaming fees.

So we stopped in Rochester along the way and started scouring the mobile phone companies for pay-as-you-go mobile Internet services.

T-Mobile sells a 4G Mobile Hotspot for $72 with no contract. This allows you to connect five Wi-Fi devices. You can add data by getting the Mobile Broadband monthly pass for 5 GB for $50. This is approximately 125 times as much data as you can get from TELUS.

After checking with T-Mobile at the Pittsford Plaza south of Rochester, it turns out the coverage for the Finger Lakes are almost non-existent. You can check coverage here. The salesperson told me I’d be wasting my money on the device and suggested stopping at AT&T.

So I went across the street to AT&T. It was like stepping back in time compared to the modern décor of T-Mobile. There were also two sales reps for ten customers and I couldn’t find any mobile hotspots on the shelves. It looked like a long wait for futility.

So we went further down the street to Verizon. The store copies the Apple Store format – sales agents wander around with tablet devices and engage you. It took about 30 seconds before one started helping me.

Verizon sells a prepaid Jetpack® 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot MiFi 5510L for $99. There are two monthly plans: 3 GB for $60 or 10 GB for $90. Again – 125 times as much data as TELUS Mobility. You can connect up to 10 devices to it as well. The best part was blanket coverage of the Finger Lakes. And, since the coverage was LTE it was faster than T-Mobile.

Once you find the right device and plan there are a couple of hoops you need to jump through to obtain it. The Verizon ordering system doesn’t allow for non-US addresses. There is no option for Canada or provinces in the drop-down options. If you have a friend or relative in the US then use their address. This address isn’t really tied to anything because this is a prepaid device. The sales staff doesn’t seem particularly concerned about the address. Use the address of the Verizon store itself.

Secondly, you can’t use Canadian credit cards to purchase the device. The sales people require the address for the credit card. Since there’s no way of processing Canadian addresses the system will not accept the card. The solution for this is easy – pay cash.

We had four or five devices connected to the Jetpack at any time and coverage was completely reliable where we stayed. The other bonus was blanket coverage driving on the Interstate. Have any questions about any town, store, restaurant, activity that you drive past? Have your passengers Google it on their iPads. This completely changes the way you will travel.

After the week, we only used 6 GB of our data. Since it runs out after a month, I loaned the device and it’s 4 GB of left over data to a friend driving to Pennsylvania for the weekend.

About The Author

Mike Erlindson is the President & CEO of Soulfx Technologies. He manages the design and development teams and has worked on hundreds of projects for clients in a wide range of industries. He previously worked at the Southam Infolab, Cyberplex and was Senior Producer of The Toronto Star Online.

He’s been both an Adjunct Professor at the University of Western Ontario and an Associate Professor at Centennial College teaching classes on User Experience Design and Client Service for Technology Consultants.

His entire career intersects content and technology. Always on the cutting edge, his masters degree research paper about online newspapers won the top award of his graduate school class.

Mike can be found at:

About Soulfx

Soulfx specializes in digital strategy, user experience design and cloud software development. Our software applications help clients become more efficient which increases revenue and decreases costs. Client industries include health sciences, pharmaceuticals, financial services, insurance, government and education. Contact Soulfx or call 1-877-827-4555 xt. 228