Note: This article was originally published on December 29, 2012. It may be out of date.
I love my 3G enabled Chromebook. I'm quite happy I opted to pay the extra money upfront for the added capability. After several months of usage though, I find myself longing for choice and speed, two items not fulfilled by the built-in 3G Verizon Wireless modem.
Enter FreedomPop, a startup who believes Internet access is a right, not a privilege. They specialize in providing free 4G service to as many people as possible. Their business model is interesting, they assign a certain amount of free data to you each month in hopes you'll earn more by referring friends or exploring sponsored offers. For those who rather just pay a monthly fee for a fixed amount of data, they offer upgraded plans as well. Perhaps the best news of all, their hardware works flawlessly with your Chromebook.
FreedomPop may be a bootstrapped startup, but they have big backers - like the Co-Founder of Skype. Their service is in beta, and their network only went live in November 2012 using Clearwire's (Sprint) physical towers. Due to the partnerships with Clearwire, they were able to establish nation-wide coverage almost overnight.
My experience got off to a great start when I received a notification about their holiday sale - no deposit, just pay shipping and the device is yours. As part of that deal I also received 2GB of data for my first 30 days as part of a trial. The shipping was standard for 2-day delivery (around $15 USD) and my 4G USB Dongle arrived right on time.
The very first thing I confirmed was simply that FreedomPop doesn't have coverage at my home. That's to be expected though - even my cell carrier doesn't provide any coverage here. Luckily I was heading to a nearby city that evening and took the device with me to test.
I'll be honest, I wasn't expecting great speeds for free. Some would argue that what I got isn't fantastic for 4G, but 7.55Mbps (966.4 KBps) is plenty for quickly browsing the web.
In regards to streaming videos? I was able to watch a Chromebook commercial on Youtube in 1080p with no buffer. That's a feat I've yet to accomplish on my home WiFi connection!
For those wondering, Chrome OS actually detects the device as an Ethernet connection and offers the ability to easily switch DNS settings as well. I was able to change from the default DNS to Google's and considerably increase my page loading time.
If you're the owner of a WiFi-only Chromebook, or you simply want to trade those 3G speeds for 4G, I highly recommend heading to FreedomPop's website and learning more about their company, their ideology and their business model.
Disclaimer: There are no affiliate links in this post, and the author receives no financial benefit for recommending this brand.