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Is It Time To Stop Paying For Wi-Fi?

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Why you may be able to cut your monthly internet bill

by Jean Chatzky

Internet access is available almost everywhere today: coffee shops, restaurants, trains and even 30,000 feet in the air on flights. Thanks to 4G cellular networks on our smartphones, we can surf the web, scroll on social media and watch endless Netflix series — all without even needing Wi-Fi. Simultaneously, the adoption of Wi-Fi at home has slowed in recent years as a growing share of Americans now use smartphones as their primary means of online access. Today, one-in-five American adults are “smartphone-only” internet users – meaning they own a smartphone, but do not have traditional home broadband service, according to Pew Research Center’s latest survey.

Why are people relying on their smartphones?

Consumers are ditching home internet access because of the capabilities of their smartphones and the cost of broadband service, says Aaron Smith, Associate Director of Research at Pew Research Center. “Among those who have a smartphone but not traditional broadband service, 33 percent say that the [monthly] cost of maintaining broadband service is the most important reason they don’t have broadband at home,” says Smith. Another 29 percent say the most important reason is that their smartphone allows them to do everything they need to do online. Thomas Jelle, Assistant Professor at Norwegian University of Science and Technology says that “4G coverage is getting better and better, meaning that many have access to high capacity internet in their homes,” so at-home Wi-Fi isn’t really necessary.

Do we really need internet at home?

You may be able to use your phone’s mobile hotspot at no extra charge, depending on your wireless carrier and current plan. A hotspot is a feature on many smartphones that lets you share the phone’s data connection with other Wi-Fi devices like your laptop or tablet; basically your phone creates its own personal wireless network. If your wireless carrier offers this at no extra charge, then at home you could use your hotspot and stop paying for Wi-Fi. The average advertised package for stand-alone internet service in America is around $50 per month during the initial promotional offer and about $60 per month after the promotional period expires, according to HighSpeedInternet.com. Add it up and axing internet service at home could potentially save you around $700 a year. Still, smartphones aren’t always the most convenient option. Many important activities can be hard to perform on a smartphone – like creating a resume or applying for a job.

Speed matters

Jelle suggests that using your hotspot or smartphone exclusively is a good idea if you are a single user that uses the internet for surfing and streaming music and videos. But if you are a more demanding user like a gamer or have a big family with several TV’s, tablets and computers, it might not be so helpful. Why? Because the more devices you have tethered to a hotspot, the slower the speed of the connection will be. Also, your mobile plan may have unlimited talk-time and text, but networks typically limit hotspot access to a maximum of 10GB to 15GB a month at full speed.

With Hattie Burgher