Unlimited High Speed Internet You Can Take Anywhere for $10 (or Free)

The quest for reliable high-speed internet is a never-ending battle when you live in the backwoods of Wisconsin. The available options did not send their best. Normal wired internet isn’t even an option. Satellite and wireless choices helped me reach a stage of complete baldness early.

In desperate need of quality internet service I turned into a resilient cuss since I had plenty of time on my hands without the internet to distract me. Local wireless internet providers were expensive and spotty. Without other choices the local guys could thumb their nose at me. Bad idea, guys.

Time kept counting until more options materialized. The local library loaned out a wireless internet service that worked pretty good. Unfortunately, a lot of people—even in town—needed fast, reliable internet service that didn’t require a second mortgage. The library solution needed to be returned after a short week. The waiting list to re-loan the device grew long.

Research led me to a non-profit company called Calyx. Boing Boing and a few other sites had articles on Calyx, saying they offered internet service a lot like what was available at the library. They even alluded to the idea that Calyx’s fee could be deductible as a charitable contribution, a half truth (as in partially deductible).

Excited over my discovery, I published my findings. Readers started to comment that Calyx is expensive (they are) and the same exact product was available by other non-profit organizations at a fraction of the cost.

I switched gears and went with 4GCommunity instead of Calyx, saving several hundred dollars. Less than a year later 4G was out of business. Calyx had me right where they wanted: defenseless with nowhere to go. If I wanted internet service I was a captive customer of Calyx.




Painful Lesson

Reluctantly I coughed up the $500 needed for a year of internet service. There were other lower cost options similar to 4GCommunity, but the risk was high they’d face a similar fate as 4G. So Calyx has been my internet provider.

My renewal date is fast approaching and the idea of paying such a large fee gnaws at me. The library never had an issue; I checked. Calyx works fine. Similar options carried risks. What is a wayward accountant to do?

Well, the pain of parting with another $500 was the cattle prod to the backside I needed. It became clear all these companies had a root source and were reselling the service using a loophole that could be closed at any time without notice.

As I kept digging I discovered Mobile Citizen was the fairy godmother providing all the toys. It seems Congress opened bandwidth for wireless internet reserved for educational institutions and nonprofit organizations. Calyx was the first to figure out there was a loophole to resell the service. A herd followed fast behind.

The wireless companies didn’t like customers switching to lower cost alternatives on their own network. Every opportunity to find a breach in the agreement was used to shut down resellers of the service. It is rumored 4GCommunity suffered such a fate.




Creative Thinking

Securing long-term reliable internet service has become a religious calling for me. (This statement makes more sense in a bit.) Risking $500 on internet service that could be cancelled without notice wasn’t working for me. The nonprofit organizations reselling the service were doing so outside the spirit of the agreement they had with the wireless providers. My library didn’t have a problem because they used the service as it was intended.

The dividing line came when I dug deeper into Mobile Citizen. They sold the wireless internet service for $10 a month, in some cases free. (You are allowed to swallow hard here.) To recap: the wireless service works almost everywhere in the U.S., can travel with you, and costs a mere $10 per month!

So what’s the catch?

Well, for one, Mobile Citizen only sells to educational entities, nonprofits and social welfare agencies. Since I’m not one of these I could be forced to lie (not a good option and liable to cost me more when caught) or pull a John Oliver (something you may actually want to consider) and start my own church (religious organizations don’t count unless they also have an educational institution attached).

But there is a better way! My oldest daughter is tutoring and teaching English as a second language to people in China. I haven’t tested this method yet, but I will.  I will contact Mobile Citizen to see if she would qualify as an educational entity (probably not, but worth asking). I’ll be honest and accept whatever the decision.

But, my daughter is moving out so she will want her own internet service, leaving dad in the dust. (Thanks, kid. After all I did for you. Remember, I never killed you in your youth.)

I needed creative ideas to get this awesome internet service for ten smackaroos per month. I could ask my library if they’ll let me piggy back their account and pay for my own service rather than loaning out their device when it was available. My suspicion in the library will not want to jeopardize their account so they’ll politely decline. It’s still worth asking.

Absent a library willing to extend the offer to you, the choice is limited to other nonprofit organizations, educational entities and social welfare agencies. The definition of these three groups is rather wide so I’m hoping the slide something through.

Most of you, kind readers, know of a nonprofit that doesn’t use the Mobile Citizen service. This is a good time to bring it to their attention for the opportunity to purchase your own service from them. If you are actively involved in the organization, you can volunteer to set up the program for the organization. The process is easy.




A Plethora of Choices

Of course, there will be readers who don’t have contact with a nonprofit or other eligible organization. In this case, or if you’re just interested, you can set up your own nonprofit organization. It can be small and still count. The nonprofit ideas are endless.

There are a few problems with starting your own nonprofit organization. First it takes time to set up and time isn’t free. Second, the IRS charges a $750 application fee to be considered for exempt status. If your organization expects less than $40,000 of annual revenue the application fee drops to $350. This is a major pain in the tail!

However, Mobile Citizen provides several options to receive service through a qualified organization. They are clear they do NOT sell to individuals. However, teachers and students can open an account for the school with the school’s permission. Then the wireless service can be provided to students and teachers. A win for everyone since the service could actually be FREE!

You can search for non-profit organizations in your community. Even the smallest of communities has nonprofit organizations. Using the link to search local nonprofits, review the list of local organizations for those that interest you most. You can approach the nonprofit with the information about low-cost internet service. If the nonprofit is really small you could end up with free service! Offering to handle the setup in return for your internet service is a good idea. The smaller the nonprofit the better, as a really small organization may qualify for free internet for members and officers.

Final Option

Since I’ve dedicated this blog towards building financial literacy and donate all the proceeds to charity, I may need to consider turning The Wealthy Accountant into a non-profit organization. If I can’t find a way to renew through normal contacts I will strip this blog from my tax practice and file for exemption with the IRS. If that happens I’ll be sure to let you in on the project, kind readers, as you may wish to be charter members with the awesome perk of low-cost internet service.

Don’t get too excited though. As I explore ideas it is nearly a certainty I’ll find a nonprofit I can help open an account with Mobile Citizen and extend the service to members, including your favorite accountant.

You should do the same. You can kill two birds with one stone. By helping a local nonprofit get internet service for the organization and its members at a very low price, you also stand to gain.  A quick glance at my local list of possibilities immediately shows several prime candidates. A nonprofit only two miles from my country estate (I sound important, don’t I?) maintains snowmobile trails in the area. Bet the group would love a low-cost internet service.

The knee jerk reaction is to open your own nonprofit so you run the whole show. That’s too much work! You don’t have to reinvent the wheel to succeed! Many, many micro-sized nonprofits are already setup to receive the Mobile Citizen internet service. You can benefit your community while doing yourself a personal finance solid. Remember Occam ’s razor: the simplest solution is usually the correct one.

 

More Wealth Building Resources

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PeerSteet is an alternative way to invest in the real estate market without the hassle of management. Investing in mortgages has never been easier. 7-12% historical APRs. Here is my review of PeerStreet.

QuickBooks is a daily part of life in my office. Managing a business requires accurate books without wasting time. Quickbooks is an excellent tool for managing your business, rental properties, side hustle and personal finances.

A cost segregation study can save $100,000 for income property owners. Here is my review of how cost segregations studies work and how to get one yourself.

Amazon is a good way to control costs by comparison shopping. The cost of a product includes travel to the store. When you start a shopping trip to Amazon here it also supports this blog. Thank you.

 



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Keith Taxguy

20 Comments

  1. Matt on June 25, 2018 at 7:47 am

    As usual, impressed by the lengths you will go for savings. I just take it in the backside from Comcast year over year lol.

    Looks forward to reading the next steps.

    • Keith Taxguy on June 25, 2018 at 8:51 am

      It’s a game to me, Matt. My curiosity is insatiable. I want to know how things work so I keep digging until I understand. I am what I am.

  2. Prasanth on June 25, 2018 at 8:14 am

    WOW. Did not know things were so bad. Here in the corner of India that I live, competition has become so fierce that I get wired (fibre optic) internet service of 150 Mbps with almost unlimited upload/download limits for around $200/Year. Long live free market !!

    • Keith Taxguy on June 25, 2018 at 8:55 am

      I’m sorry, Prasanth; this post was U.S. centric. For people unfamiliar with life in the U.S., we have a very slow, unreliable internet network compared to the rest of the world. And it’s expensive! Some people pay $200 per month here in the U.S., Prasanth. What I aspire to is your norm. The good news is that blogs like this one help bring the world closer together. We each get a glimpse into the lives of people far away and in different cultures. And with your internet service you’ll know about it faster than me.

  3. Chris on June 25, 2018 at 9:11 am

    Thanks Taxguy! Love your articles.

  4. Dustin on June 25, 2018 at 10:09 am

    So this type of service only works if you already have 4G of some sort at your house right?

    My mom’s place is right in a cell network deadzone. Stuck paying $70/month for 10gb of satellite. It’s outrageous.

    • Keith Taxguy on June 25, 2018 at 11:25 am

      Dustin, check out the coverage map. If cell service is bad, data service might still be good, as the situation at my farm is.

    • Fred on August 9, 2018 at 6:06 pm

      A “cell network deadzone” probably just means you have to locate the towers and determine how high and which direction you might have to mount external antenna(s) and possibly amplifiers.

      I’ve installed a few hotspots over the years in off-grid settings – in each case, adding a “Yagi” antenna and spending 10 minutes up on the rooftop aligning it took us from zero-1 bar to 4-5 bars, and speed upgrades from dialup to 15Mbps.

      If you’re more adventurous, you can build your own router and use a better modem card than the cellphone companies provide in their hotspots.

  5. Maria on June 25, 2018 at 10:16 am

    You’re killing it Keith.
    A friend just started a non profit to support veterans. He’s gonna love this.

  6. Robyn J on June 25, 2018 at 2:30 pm

    Hi Keith. We are over on the western shore of WI and unfortunately have poor service here too. I followed your lead and have Calyx. Unfortunately, they do apparently throttle but have 6 months left on that data plan. I would gladly sign up today for the true unlimited and hoping you are setting up a non-profit as I type.

    • Matt on July 8, 2018 at 11:39 pm

      At what point of data usage do they throttle and how severe is the speed rEduction?

      • Keith Taxguy on July 9, 2018 at 8:36 am

        They don’t throttle back at any level. I use over 100 G per month without problem.

  7. Mark Dias on June 25, 2018 at 2:56 pm

    I am still stuck on cattle prod to the backside. I think I will steal that. Non-profit Internet. Sounds good to me.

    • Keith Taxguy on June 25, 2018 at 5:16 pm

      I do have a way with words, Mark.

  8. Morgana on June 25, 2018 at 8:28 pm

    Some people are using this https://www.freedompop.com/wireless-internet. I have no personal experience with it.

  9. Joey Graziano on June 26, 2018 at 10:14 am

    Now you’ve for me thinking! In my suburban town, there is no library that offers resources for mathematics and IT. Being an IT professional, perhaps I could start a series of classes closing the gap between the boring mathematical principles taught in books and super cool computer programs.

    I need a reliable internet and real estate to store books for this endeavor and I never thought about a non-profit until now. Please keep us posted on the progress. Thanks for the info!

  10. Chuck on June 27, 2018 at 10:07 am

    I wonder if my HOA is considered a non-profit and all the members (ie my neighbors) could have cheaper/free internet. Interesting!

    Thanks Keith

  11. Dan on June 27, 2018 at 6:14 pm

    I want to correct you regarding Calyx. The first year is $500 (most of it tax deductible) but subsequent annual renewals are $400. That comes out to $33.33/month. Most of that $400 is tax deductible so the effective cost is less. Assuming 25% tax bracket, you are looking at around $25/month in effective costs after year 1.

    You say Mobile Citizen sold the service at $10/month but “only sells to educational entities, nonprofits and social welfare agencies.” Essentially you are mixing wholesale & retail prices.

    • Keith Taxguy on June 27, 2018 at 7:12 pm

      You are correct, Dan. I’m going from buying retail to buying wholesale. It’s the same product, but at a seriously reduced rate. Whenever I have the opportunity to buy wholesale I get excited.

      The increased standard deduction in 2018 and after is expected to reduce itemizing by 65% so the deductible portion of the fee to Calyx is unavailable to most consumers. You could also buy at wholesale and donate to a local charity and get the same tax benefit while serving a local need. There has been plenty of dialog over how much of Calyx’s fee is deductible. Well, you need to know the cost of the device and the amount paid to Mobile Citizen by Calyx to determine the deductible portion. I know the numbers because I researched further, but most people will not and Calyx never gave me any documentation informing me of the deductible portion.

      This option will serve some readers well. Some will find it an amusing choice only. My job as a blogger is to inform and I have.

      Good comment, Dan, pointing out a dichotomy I neglected in the post.

      • Dan on June 27, 2018 at 8:04 pm

        My invoice from Calyx had a line item indicating the tax deductible portion. At least that is how I interpreted it. I seem to recall the cost of the device was included in the Year 1 donation. Therefore, in Year 2 and beyond, you should be able to deduct a larger percentage.

        Not everyone can itemize (more so in 2018 than 2017 and earlier) but that is one of the main selling points for Calyx for me.

        I’m still not sure why a nonprofit would agree to this. You are saying that Mobile Citizen charges nonprofits $10/month per user? This results in a cashflow obligation from the nonprofit to Mobile Citizen. Just to break even, the nonprofit needs to charge their members an incremental $10/month. There seems to be a large overheard in tracking their membership for internet service – they have to keep track of non-standard membership terms, if members have paid their monthly dues for the current month, they have to mail out the hotspot devices, an arrears policy, etc. To keep up with this, they will likely have to increase membership dues by more than $10/month or require annual membership to simplify the paperwork.

        I like the idea of you setting up a non-profit and DIYing it. That would provide a good exercise in the true cost of the service. I think having a paid staff of just one person would double the cost.

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