What is a hotspot?
A WiFi hotspot uses a cellular network to provide standard wireless. When activated, it broadcasts itself as a secured wireless access point. These devices can usually support only 8-10 simultaneous users, but can often be paired with enterprise hardware to support more users. Speed depends on signal strength to nearby cell towers, and devices require a monthly data plan, often with data usage limits.
Where can I find them?
Hotspots can be purchased directly through cell carriers, or through other organizations that use core cell carriers to provide service, with an added service layer. Often these alternative providers can provide better deals and additional services. Some examples of providers:
How do I check cell service?
Find out what cell provider your hotspot uses, then check the coverage maps for that provider. This will give you a good idea if that provider will work well in you area, or if you need to investigate alternatives. Major providers below:
What do costs look like?
Hotspot hardware tends to be cheap, sometimes even free, but the real cost lies in the data plan - usually paid monthly or yearly. Options range from monthly costs as low as $10 a month through organizations such as TechSoup/Mobile Beacon to much higher costs in the $150+ range for robust, unlimited data solutions like Unlimitedville or UbiFi.
What data plan should I choose?
Use the coverage maps listed above to determine what provider you should choose, then decide on what level of data you will need. Sticking with an unlimited data package is always a good idea, but your usage may vary, and reducing monthly data allowances may allow you to increase the number of hotspots you provide.
Can they be filtered?
Many providers offer the ability to filter for a fee. This may be publicly posted on the providers website, or you may need to contact them directly and negotiate a price and solution.
Examples of Hotspot Lending Programs: