What does it take to get a decent internet service? It cost $ 10,000 for Aaron Epstein, a 90-year-old man in North Hollywood, California. He was so frustrated with his slow AT&T internet service that he spent $ 10,000 on newspaper ads telling the company’s CEO to do better. Money spoke. AT&T immediately sent employees to bring a faster fiber optic cable to his home.
The lack of the Internet is somewhat akin to not having a telephone in the 1950s, when the last houses in the country were wired for telephone services. Lack of internet access isolates seniors from modern life, leaving them stranded in a ‘digital desert’.
The fact is, seniors are second-class citizens when it comes to Internet access. A project called Aging Connected: Exposing the Hidden Connectivity Crisis for Older Adults commissioned by OATS, Senior Planet̵
In the meantime, here are some inexpensive strategies to help you bridge the connectivity gap.
Use your phone’s mobile hotspot
If you have a smartphone, which most of us do, you can use your mobile signal to create a Wi-Fi signal that connects to a laptop or tablet with Wi-Fi. With the same 4G signal that you use to watch a YouTube video, you can create a mobile hotspot and access the Internet. This article explains how.
You can also buy a cheap standalone hotspot device or a dongle – which is basically a very small modem with the ability to connect to wireless or mobile broadband.
Buy a cheap unlimited data plan for your hotspot
If you don’t have an unlimited amount of data, use your hotspot sparingly. Laptops can be very tricky as they tend to use up to three times more data when browsing the Internet.
Consider getting a cell phone plan with unlimited data if you plan to use it as a hotspot. Cell phone providers such as T-Mobile offer senior plans with unlimited data for about $ 50 per month.
Find a place with free public Wi-Fi
Many restaurants encourage customers to use their internet, as long as you pay for a cup of coffee.
Take your laptop to a Panera, Starbucks or MacDonald’s that offers free Wi-Fi. Here’s a list of restaurants ranked by the best free Wi-Fi they offer.
Here’s a list by state of all types of facilities, including restaurants, libraries, and other places that offer free Wi-Fi.
Go to the library
Before the pandemic, libraries provided an essential public service by making Internet-connected computers available to everyone. Lockdowns meant closed libraries. Seniors were disproportionately affected, as so many of us relied on local libraries for computer access.
Libraries are now reopening and many offer computing by appointment. Call your local library to see what their availability is.
Share with a neighbor
If you live close to your neighbors, try to make an appointment to share Wi-Fi. You may be able to save both.
Look for free (or cheap) internet service
During the pandemic, a number of providers started offering free or cheap internet to low-income families. Enter your zip code on this site to see what’s available in your area.
Sign up for Comcast’s Internet Essentials plan for $ 9.95 per month.
Don’t buy the humiliating fiction that we seniors are too old and rigid to figure out how to use technology. We are perfectly capable of being computer savvy as long as we have equal access to the internet.