HOW I BECAME A MOBILE HOTSPOT
It happens more often than I can remember: I’m productively tapping away at my laptop at a conference or in a hotel lobby. A stranger asks for help getting on the venue’s Wi-Fi. I explain that I’m not on it—I’ve brought the Internet with me, in the form of my Verizon Wireless MiFi mobile router.
The MiFi is about the size of a stack of 20 business cards. It turns Verizon EVDO broadband into wireless Internet access, which I can tap into from any Wi-Fi-enabled device. That includes all my laptops, of course, but also my iPad and my smartphones.
I bought it to get online in the occasional situation where there was not another connection available.
But I tend to leave it in my pocket and forget it’s there. I use the MiFi in a lot of places where you might expect it would come in handy. For instance, I don’t pay for Internet access in hotels or at airports anymore. Even in places where Wi-Fi is free, I usually don’t bother with it. Why futz with passwords or battle other laptop users for bandwidth when the MiFi works so well with so little effort?
The MiFi’s at its most useful, though, in situations where I just wouldn’t have been able to get online at all in the past. I’ve written posts for my site while zipping down the Bay Area’s Highway 101 at 70 miles an hour. (No, I wasn’t behind the wheel.) And my car radio goes mostly unused—instead, I feast on Pandora, Slacker and other streaming audio on my smartphone, all delivered via the MiFi’s rock-solid signal.
When I decided to spend $60 a month on the EVDO that powers the MiFi, it sounded pricey—but it also sounded like a sensible investment in my small business. Now that I’ve got it, I find it useful in all the ways I thought I would, plus plenty of others I didn’t expect. Which is why, when those random strangers come up to me in public, I often find myself telling them they need a personal hotspot of their own.