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Ask Slashdot: Unlimited Data Plan For Seniors? 170

New submitter hejman08 writes with a question probably faced by many whose parents, grandparents, and other relatives rely on them for tech support and advice, specifically one about finding an appropriate data plan for his grandmother, of whom he writes: She is on her own plan through Verizon with 1GB of data, and she literally blows through it in three days or less every month, then complains about having nothing to do. They have Wi-Fi at her senior center, but only in specific rooms, and she has bad ankles and knees so she wants to stay home. Internet service would cost 80 a month to add where she lives. What I am wondering, is if any of the genius slashdotters out there know of a plan that- regardless of cost of phone, which we could manage as a gift to her, once- would allow her to have at least 300 minutes, 250 texts, and truly unlimited data (as in none of that Unlimited* stuff that is out there where they drop you to caveman speeds within a gig of usage), all for the price of less than say, 65 a month? The big 4 carriers don't seem to have anything that would work for her. What would you recommend? (I might start with a signal repeater in a utility closet, myself, or some clandestine CAT5 from a friendly neighbor's place.)
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Ask Slashdot: Unlimited Data Plan For Seniors?

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  • If speed isnt an issue: Try Straight Talk. $45 prepaid Available at Walmart []
    • by thaylin ( 555395 )
      I am pretty sure speed is an issue

      (as in none of that Unlimited* stuff that is out there where they drop you to caveman speeds within a gig of usage)

      • wow 10GB+ a month, is she watching Netflix or a lot of youtube on there? If 3g speeds would work, I suggest FreedomPop. you get unlimited* for $20/mo, where unlimited means 1st GB 4g and remaining GB 3g. Or get a wifi repeater?

      • by IANAAC ( 692242 )

        I am pretty sure speed is an issue

        3G speeds are not bad. I use Straight Talk's 3G hockey puck hotspot (Umax U240C), which is 3G-only, and can do everything I need to on it, including stream Netflix.

        Also, I usually get the 4Gig/40 dollar card, which is good for 60 days. It's about as good as it gets price-wise, for pre-paid at least.

    • Yeah, this is basically the best there is. Its mostly 3G speeds, but not always, and you will at least get what you get, all the time, at the best price there is. Frankly anyone expecting 4G speeds, unlimited, for less than huge money is just SOL.

      • T-Mobile has a plan with 5GB of 4G (and the rest 3G, I think -- I never hit the 4G cap to find out) for $30/month.

        • by m3000 ( 46427 )

          If she uses 1GB in 3 days, that won't do it either since that's only half a month.

          • The point is that the fallback after 5GB is 3G, not 2G. If 3G counts as "not caveman speeds" then it's a cheap, reasonable option.

            • But have you tested it to see if it REALLY gives you 3G speeds? Because I have customers in my area that have tried those kinds of plans and honestly it feels no better than dialup once they hit the cap. We're talking video that does nothing but buffer, audio skips, its like throwing on the brakes and makes it worthless for anything more than checking email.
        • Yeah, that could be better for some people. The $30 part is nice if you aren't going to use a HUGE amount of data and just want 4G. T-Mobile's network only has patchy 4G around here though, so I've not tried it. Truthfully all wireless internet kinda sucks in one way or another. At least some of the resellers are FAIRLY honest about what you get, like Straight Talk, and the price is pretty reasonable considering its an unlimited everything plan. At least you never need to be watching your usage.

        • link?

          • Re:StraighTalk (Score:4, Informative)

            by mrchaotica ( 681592 ) * on Tuesday October 28, 2014 @04:09PM (#48254633)

            It's kind of a secret, since T-Mobile would prefer that you pay them more than $30/month. Here are some instructions: []

            I didn't screw around trying to do stuff online; I just took my phone* into Wal-Mart and they sold me a SIM kit and activated it.

            (* The phone in question was a Nexus 5 bought directly from Google, so it had never been activated with any other service -- I don't know if that matters.)

            • I prefer FreedomPop. $75/yr for unlimited/unlimited/500mb, with extra GB being $25 per. Or, unlimited/unlimited/unlimited for $20/mo with first GB on 4g then the rest on 3G. Those are pretty sweet deals.

    • After 1GB they drop you down to dialup, so you'd be better off just getting dialup and call it a day.
  • by xtal ( 49134 ) on Tuesday October 28, 2014 @01:46PM (#48252751)

    It's $80/mo.. you can't get anything near unlimited for that.

    Be glad you're not in Canada.

    • Huh? I'm in Canada and I pay $52 a month for monthly home internet (300GB limit).
      • by Maxwell ( 13985 )

        Who is your canadian wireless provider? Because that is what we are discussing here. And how many minutes do you get for that?

    • by ADRA ( 37398 )

      On Novus, 100/100 unlimited usage, $92.91 after taxes. A great reason to be in a building that has it!

      • by ADRA ( 37398 )

        Woops, there is a bandwidth cap (before you pay extra) at 750 GB. After that I pay $0.25 / GB or $5.00 for 20

      • â85 here for truly unlimited 1000/1000 fiber including VoIP, TV with HBO and usenet with 1000 days retention. No ports blocked, fixed ip available at no additional costs, running servers explicitly allowed in the TOS.

  • And last...

  • by daveschroeder ( 516195 ) * on Tuesday October 28, 2014 @01:47PM (#48252763)

    ...than the $65 you already stated you are willing to spend to get her internet in her room.

    Enough said.

    • That would probably the best way to do it. Another option, depending upon where you live, would be to go with MetroPCS or T-Mobile and buy a phablet for your grandmother. If you went with MetroPCS and the 499.00 Galaxy Mega, your grandmother would have truly unlimited data for 60.00 per month.
    • by hawguy ( 1600213 )

      ...than the $65 you already stated you are willing to spend to get her internet in her room.

      Enough said.

      But then he's still got to pay for some cell phone plan for her since presumably she wants to be able to use her phone away from home.

      • Set her up with Wifi calling and a small data/minutes SIM from T-Mobile for next to no cost to get her through the times when she is not at home with Wifi. Sounds like she's mostly at home, so take care of 90% of the needs with home internet + Wifi and then have a small $15/mo plan for when she's not at home.
        • by hawguy ( 1600213 )

          Set her up with Wifi calling and a small data/minutes SIM from T-Mobile for next to no cost to get her through the times when she is not at home with Wifi. Sounds like she's mostly at home, so take care of 90% of the needs with home internet + Wifi and then have a small $15/mo plan for when she's not at home.

          Ahh, so then it's not just $15/extra, that's $30 extra -- $15 for the home internet plus $15 (or more?) for a 300 minute cell phone plan... so that puts him 50% higher than he budgeted.

      • She can use Google Voice to call and text.
    • by antdude ( 79039 )

      And does she need mobile phone? If not, dump it and get landline services.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The idea of anyone's grandmother literally blowing anything is disturbing.

  • I know I am gonna get beat up here, but did you check into a bundle with cable TV service? Maybe she already has cable, and could upgrade? I use cable service here just for internet and they offer phone too. Forget about cellular companies, unless you can use somebody like T-Mobile?

    • She's in a senior center which means she's at the mercy of the establishment. I'm betting that $80 goes right into their pocket as they already have internet and all they are going to do for that $80 is turn on the wifi extender in the room she is in.
      • OP clearly stated that she doesn't want to go to the senior center for internet - she wants to stay home.

  • Internet service would cost 80 a month to add where she lives

    Uhh what? Normally where I'm at paying over $50/month for internet means you're getting ripped off.

  • Unlimited text/talk/data []
  • 1GB in 3 days is around 10GB/month.

    Cricket prepaid is $60 for 10GB of high speed data with fallback to slow speeds if you exceed it (so she can still email you, but can't watch video). You can choose to pay $10/GB for extra data.

  • by redmid17 ( 1217076 ) on Tuesday October 28, 2014 @01:55PM (#48252919)
    The least you can do is give us a ballpark location so we can look at a coverage map. Sprint or T-Mobile have have deals going with unlimited data.

    Personally I'd go with Sprint, but I know their coverage can be spotty in certain places, though it has gotten a lot better since I signed up for it 5 years ago.
    • The least you can do is give us a ballpark location so we can look at a coverage map.

      A fixed wireless ISP might also do the trick.
      Their coverage tends not to be very comprehensive, so it's hit or miss if the residential facility will be in the coverage zone.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    T-Mobile.. $80/mo Truly unlimited:

    Sprint - $60/mo Truly unlimited ($50/mo is you get iPhone 6):

    Of course you need to know if they have good service at the Center. I had 'unlimited slow Sprint' that more often than not just didn't work and switched to T-Mobile on a 2.5 Gig per line plan. Even when over the cap the experience is better than Sprin

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Also possibly MetroPCS, though I have no experience with them:

    • LOL @ Straight Talk. Your data just stops working at the cap with Straight Talk.

      No it doesn't. It just slows down.

  • "Internet service would cost 80 a month to add where she lives" - You are not going to find any truly unlimited service for anywhere even remotely approaching that.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      since she's blowing through 1GB in 3 days. For at-home internet, 10GB is nothing. Comcast's notorious data cap is 250GB or 300GB.

    • Except for the T-Mobile and Sprint plans that others pointed to that are exactly that....

  • the sneaky caveman-speed ones they put on their "unlimited" data plans for mobile. Your Government Inaction (tm) is finally getting around to this.

  • Based on my limited experience, the telecom and internet at these assisted living and nursing facilities is inhumanely bad.

    We are in an era where someone with no technical knowledge should be able video chat with their grandchildren. Incoming calls just requires touching a screen which is easier than picking-up a phone. Making outgoing calls is easier than dialing a telephone since there are no phone numbers: you just get a list of people on the screen, with their picture, and you touch the picture to cal

    • by TheCarp ( 96830 )

      After re-reading the question I don't think she lives at an assisted living center. I believe the "Senior Center" mentioned is not where she lives at all, but a place outside the home that she can go to and be around other seniors. Based on how the question was written, I believe the implication is that she lives at home, on her own.

      Of course, it is a bit confusing since I think the posting editor made the same assumption when he suggested a repeater.

      So the question can more reliably be reduced to "what hig

    • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

      I tried to set this up for my wife's great grandmother, but the otherwise modern facility had no Wifi and no 3G. We could barely get a cell signal of any kind in her room. The only internet in the facility was on a few dedicated computers. Cell reception was just fine outside though.

      Actually, modern buildings are more likely to be like that because the windows and such have metallized tinting to try to block heat from entering and all that (where it'll get way too hot in summer).

      Of course, this also means t

  • Great place for mesh. Just find some old guy at the center that used to work at Cisco.

  • Since there is wifi but only in specific rooms, maybe this will work: []

    I have an older version of one of these and mounted a bigger antenna on this. On Holidays I take this along and receive wifi points 2 miles away. Possibly she could receive the available wifi.

    Mine works well in both Windows and Linux, don't know about the newer ones

  • That's a lot of naughty bits of David Hasselhoff.
  • by Anonymous Coward

  • I would look for a device that looks/feels like a regular cellphone phone but uses voip. Hopefully it would use a free service like Google Voice.
    Then just buy her the internet access for her room.

    Yes, I know that is $15 more than your maximum amount to spend but I doubt you are going to find unlimited data for less anyway. Then you can even give her a tablet or laptop if she is up to learning to use it.

  • find an android device that can be rooted, and start blacklisting advertising sites in the hosts file. I literally cut my data usage in half doing this. Make sure the device is set to connect to wireless whenever possible, and look around for municipal wifi or wimax where available. Unlimited data is $100 or more depending on how reliable and fast you'd like it, whereas skype and a tablet connected to $80 per month internet is still much more preferable. Find out exactly how much data she uses, calculat
    • by Lumpy ( 12016 )

      You can already get an adblocking hosts file that installs easily as an app. and it blocks ALL ad's on the device... Makes it a breath of fresh air.

  • 25EUR/month.
    Only cap is the LTE is throttled to 50Mbps, and price doesn't include foreign calls or SMS.
    But I guess you/your grandmother don't live in their service area, as pretty much evey carrier here has a similar offer, and its impossible to miss the ads.

  • Why don't you directly solve the problem and help them improve their Wifi coverage? It could be as simple as buying something more modern with more power and some repeaters. At least see if they would let you investigate it. A few hundred dollars might side step the mobile and make all of the residents live easier.

    Maybe some local company would donate services or equipment to help you do this. Talk to their ISP. Who knows until you beg?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Since she obviously uses her Verizon data and has a good connection, you could do an AoL (Assumption of Liability) from a grandfathered unlimited data plan. People are selling the plans on various forums, ebay, craigslist, etc. A lot of people have recently been giving them away on macforums and the like since the new iPhone came out.

    Though I personally would look into using a repeater as suggested in the summary.

  • $30 per mo. 300 minutes, unlimited data and text. That is the best deal I could find.
  • Get a good wifi extender and attach it to the "free wifi" there and have it re broadcast to her room. A decent AP that can do it with external antennas and a high gain patch antenna should do the trick.

    • Get a good wifi extender and attach it to the "free wifi" there and have it re broadcast to her room. A decent AP that can do it with external antennas and a high gain patch antenna should do the trick.

      If it were that easy, yes a few well configured OpenWRT devices (bought on ebay for $30-50 and plugged in inconspicuously above the drop ceiling) would solve the issue. I have a feeling whoever is railing those seniors for $80/mo connections has some sway over the facility management though (how else could they get away with shit like that??) and would quash the idea.

  • I would just go in for the extra $15 from $65.
    But if you want to go on the cheap side, t-mobile's prepaid phone plans [] currently has something similar to what you asked for.

    100 min talk
    unlimited text
    unlimited data, first 5 gigs are unthrottled.

    Maybe you could figure out a way to pay $60 for 10 gigs of unthrottled, or some sort of pay as you go data plan with them.

  • That sounds like service from a cable company.

    If she has Comcast in here area perhaps she can qualify for Internet Essentials? $10 per month broadband service to low income families.

    If not what about DSL?

  • If you are in a decent sized city, MetroPCS. They have BYOD, so any unlocked GSM (AT&T or TMobile) device will work.

    For $60 (taxes, fees included) you get unlimited calling, texting and 4G data. In the D/FW area I usually average 10 Mbps download speeds on my N4 (that only has HSPA+), my wife can gets 15-20Mbps with her MotoX (4GLTE).

    If you are using it as a hotspot though, hotspot costs an extra $5 per month, and that is limited to 2.5 GB per month 4G. The phone would still get unlimited thoug
  • Can you find her a better way to get to the senior center? Staying at home entertaining yourself on the Internet is possibly not the best lifestyle. Spending time around other people and possibly participating in some of the other activities, not to mention getting out of the house may all be better for her. Then again, depending on her age/health it may not much matter.
  • While I'm not familiar with the logistics of taking over someone's plan, I regularly see people selling their accounts on eBay. So you pay $200-300 for the account which has a grandfathered unlimited plan AND you have to buy a phone. That said, I used 15GB last month on my unlimited plan (which I've had for years, I did not eBay it) and I just buy last year's phone. Of course, there is talks of Verizon throttling Unlimited customers (of course there is also an article talking about FCC involvement in thrott

  • My recommendation would be a directional antenna and a neighbor with an open access point.
  • []

    $50 = 1 GB data, unlimited talk and text. NO OVERAGE CHARGES -- they just throttle you after you hit your limit. Isn't that nicer than being throttled at some mystery point by another carrier?

    $60 = 3 GB. $70 = 5 GB. $80 = unlimited, and since they're honest about the other stuff, I'm *almost* inclined to believe them. Feel like experimenting? Sign up and post the results in a couple months.

    Do the math: if she goes through 1 GB in 2-3 days, she needs 10-15 GB per month. Eithe

  • ... who thinks they are entitled to unlimited usage is naive. And wrong. ... who thinks they can get unlimited usage without paying a high price is a fool. And wrong. ... who doesn't read the contract to find out what 'unlimited' really means is just damn lazy. And probably a little bit of both of the above.

  • Black Wireless - - They're an AT&T MVNO. LTE isn't supported, but HSPA+ is, and I've seen that exceed 10mbps. Have been using them nearly a year with no problems, though I am not on the unlimited data plan myself. I spoke with customer service and they claim that unlimited data really is unlimited data.
    • I came here to post about MVNOs. I don't have any mod points, but this is definitely the way to go for single lines. I haven't used Black, but MVNOs are generally reasonable to deal with.
  • I think you are misguided.

    The idea for mobile data is mobility. If she has trouble getting around, then a mobile phone should not be her internet connection. If she is not mobile why a mobile phone? Does she also have a home phone? You are already paying $50 per month for her cell phone - does she have cable tv too? I can't believe you can't get her internet for less then $80/month.

    Drop the cell phone, get internet for her, and some other texting method. You could even get her an Obi110 and google voice num

  • Any type of fee opposes the notion of free speech quite literally. if we have a constitution that assures free speech and then turn around and allow private companies to regulate the flow of speech we have a meaningless Bill Of Rights. Think of a short wave radio and a user that simply gabs all the time. We have never had laws that suggest that we can shut the guy down due to the air waves being limited and public property as well. So if we have a private company that can throttle free speech we are
  • Your parents and grandparents took care of everything for you when you were growing up. $80 is a small price to pay to make grandma happy. You owe it to her.

  • One time cost for you, with the senior center paying for the wifi service.

    I've got the tmobile plan "unlimited" plan. It's not bad for unlimited data and browsing, but I don't think any wireless service with speed enough for quality video really gives unlimited bandwidth, at least in the US. Wireless and netflix really isn't economical for providers.

  • If you have a neighbor willing to let you share internet, that would be the best. You may work something out that you split the bill or something. My grandma wanted internet but couldn't afford the DSL connection. My aunt lived close by and said that grandma could share her internet if we could get it to her. I was going to run a straight CAT5 cable from my aunt's router to an AP at my grandma's, but it was about 400 feet of open field and I didn't feel like trenching a cable that far. I thought about

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