This blog originally appeared on the TechSoup blog. Libraries can use Mobile Beacon hotspots to connect bookmobiles, start a home broadband program, or sign people up for services at events. For more about libraries increasing home broadband adoption, read about a few mobile hotspot lending programs across the country.
Broadband Internet service for 10 people for $10 a month. Sound good? It's returning to TechSoup after several months' absence. We're talking about Mobile Beacon, of course, provider of wireless broadband service to nonprofits and public libraries.
What Mobile Beacon is actually donating is a wireless LTE mobile hotspot with each one-year account you sign up for. The mobile hotspot can connect up to 10 computers, tablets, smartphones, and other devices at a time. To get one, you'll need to pay in advance for a year of service at Mobile Beacon's regular price of $120. This is fourth-generation (4G) LTE broadband service, with download speeds that average 6 to 8 megabits per second and can reach peak speeds of 25 megabits per second. Your devices need to be Wi-Fi-enabled to connect to the hotspot.
How Can My Organization Benefit?
You can use this mobile hotspot in your office or library or else take it along with you when you do fieldwork or travel within the United States. Some organizations have set up hotspot lending programs. You just have to make sure you'll be in the Mobile Beacon 4G LTE coverage area.
As before we're offering three different products, depending on the number of hotspots you need. With thesingle-hotspot product, you can try out the service or provide it to up to 10 different users in your organization. In addition to that, you can request either the 5-hotspot product or the 10-hotspot product within a fiscal year. Each device includes a year of broadband service for $120.
Up until late in 2015, Mobile Beacon's service ran on Sprint's WiMAX network. (WiMAX is a kind of 4G technology.) Then Sprint announced that it would no longer provide WiMAX service and would instead offer 4G service based on the LTE standard.
Libraries and nonprofits were immediately concerned. As Mobile Beacon managing director Katherine Messier reported in her open letter to customers, "Libraries were afraid they would have to shut down their Internet hotspot lending programs. … Nonprofit case workers would be greatly limited in their ability to provide services in the field." Mobile Beacon went so far as get a court order that extended WiMAX service to March 31, 2016.
Now they've worked out a deal for LTE service with no data caps or throttling and are returning to TechSoup with LTE-compatible hotspots.
What About Previous Donation Recipients?
If you previously signed up with Mobile Beacon through TechSoup, you should have received an email from them explaining how to receive a new LTE mobile hotspot. There is no cost for the hotspot, but you'll need to buy another year of service, prorated for any time left on your current agreement. If you have misplaced the email, you can get in touch with Mobile Beacon as explained on their Convert & Connect page. You have until March 31, 2016, to order your replacement hotspot.