As a long-time remote employee, the COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t disrupted my daily life as it has for many others. Several years ago I moved from the city to a rural community with no access to high-speed internet. I needed to adapt quickly to my new reality and find a reasonable solution for my work and family needs. Cellular MiFi cards were just becoming a “thing” and I was an early adopter of cell data as my only internet resource.
According to the FCC, approximately 19 million Americans don’t have access to broadband internet service. I can only imagine that a large number of those 19 million people are struggling to figure out how they’ll continue to work away from their offices for an unknown amount of time with little to no access to the internet. Coffee shops or the library are the obvious first choice but gathering in any form is becoming greatly discouraged, or even illegal, plus they lack the social distancing necessary to prevent the spread of this disease.
With over 10 years of trial and error here are my tried and true tricks to make your cell data work for you.
- Check your cell phone data plan and increase your plan to the highest level of data available. Cell phone carriers have different data plans and caps, so research to see what plans are available with your carrier. I have a 30GB hotspot data plan while my husband has a 15GB hotspot plan. We tether our computers, tablets, smart TV and gaming systems to our phones to access the internet.
- Unlimited doesn’t mean what you think it does. I’m sure that most of you already know this but only the lucky few still have truly unlimited data plans that allow mobile hotspot tethering. Most cell carriers have “unlimited” data plans that will throttle your speed once you’ve reached a certain number of gigabytes or will slow significantly if network traffic is heavy. Additionally, some carriers have a secondary allotment of gigabytes that are strictly for your mobile hotspot, once you reach that limit you will likely be throttled to dial-up speeds which takes me to the next point.
- Separate “cell data” from “tethering data”. Tethering data is when you have your phone’s mobile hotspot activated and connected to your computer to access the internet. Cell data is the data used while you’re physically on your phone. Each has its own bucket of gigabytes to draw from. Video conferences are data vampires. If you have to be on video, use your cellphone data plan to make that call. Having a cell phone tripod is helpful so you can still work handsfree. If you find that one application or program is eating your data while working on your laptop, see if there is a creative way to use your cellular data instead.
- Prioritize and protect your data and use it wisely. In our household the person that uses the internet for work gets priority. This means that no one is streaming Netflix, Hulu or Disney+ and they aren’t internet gaming. I can only imagine what you’re thinking, “The kids are home and they can’t STREAM?” Yeah, pretty much. The paycheck takes priority. Order two or three of their favorite movies on DVD, they can re-watch those a million times instead of streaming the same two or three shows over and over again.
- The new season of XXXX is coming out next week. If you absolutely have to watch that new season use your cell phone data and cast it to your television, this won’t kill your limited hotspot data. Be patient, the buffering can be brutal.
- Maximize all phone data plans in your household. If you have more than one cell phone on your plan, increase all of their data plans to the maximum available. This will allow you to swap out the hotspot as the data is exhausted. Add on another phone/plan if necessary.
- Data plans are expensive. Yes, they are. Don’t ask yourself how can you afford to do this instead ask yourself how can you not afford to do this. If your job allows you to work from home during these next few weeks, make every effort to be productive. The internet is your lifeline to the working world. You won’t be commuting or stopping at Starbucks every day, pull the extra from your gas and coffee budget. Once the madness is over and the world returns to normal you can revert back to your prior data plans.
Do you have some tips to add? Let us know on @ChromaticHQ