mobile broadband services – NetZero, 2017

Founded in 1998 as the nation’s first free internet service provider, NetZero made a name for itself by offering highly affordable access in the early days of the web. Today, it has dial-up, DSL and mobile broadband plans, with the latter operating off Sprint’s nationwide network. NetZero’s at-home internet plans are inexcusably outdated, but its wireless options – at least recently – offer average connectivity for equally average prices. The company isn’t a standout, but for low-use customers, it could well be your ticket to mobile connectivity.


NetZero offers six different mobile internet plans, ranging from a mere 200MB to a sufficiently sizable 6GB. The 200MB plan is notable for being free, at least for the first year, while the 500MB, 1GB and 2GB plans are all cheaper than equivalent options at other providers. Prices begin to shift at the 4GB level, which costs $52.90 after you account for your hotspot’s monthly line access fee, slightly more than the $50 you can expect out of AT&T or Verizon. At $82.90, again after the line access fee, NetZero’s Platinum Plus 6GB plan is $20 more than you’d pay elsewhere.

If all you’re after is cheap wireless internet, even if your data allocations are low, NetZero is a surprisingly great deal. 1GB of data for $19.95 is nothing to scoff at, and 200MB for free is even better, assuming that’s all you need. Laptops tend to eat a lot of bandwidth, and if you want to stream music, watch videos or do anything beyond occasionally checking your email, you need a larger data pool. It’s common for mobile hotspot owners to top 8GB or even 10GB of data without breaking a sweat.

Fortunately, NetZero doesn’t charge any arbitrary fees to its customers. There are no activation fees when you buy a new hotspot. There are no data overage fees because there are no overages; once you hit your data cap, your web access is shut off. Since NetZero isn’t a contract provider, you also don’t have to worry about early termination fees.

The name NetZero feels dredged up from the history of the internet, but the company still offers decent service on one of the most prevalent cellular networks in the country. It may be a small name among wireless internet providers, but if your needs are similarly small, you can probably save a decent amount of money by picking them over the competition. Just be sure you don’t need too much web access every month; NetZero’s prices escalate quickly.