FreedomPop: Free WiMAX Internet For All (Some Exceptions Apply)

FreedomPop made good on its promise of "freemium" home Internet access on Wednesday, after teasing the service back in December. If you've been awaiting the WiMAX device in dubious anticipation, you should be gratified to know that your misgivings were not unfounded.

To use the "free" service, users must first pay $89 for the box. The device, called the FreedomPop Hub Burst wireless modem, comes with a 1GB monthly data cap and top download speed of 1.5Mbps — sufficient for non-intensive data tasks like reading email and browsing through your favorite Geocities-sites from the '90s.

Looking to stream Netflix through your new connection? FreedomPop has a plan for you too, if you're willing to trade in the lofty altruism the company likes to imply with its entry-level option, geared toward underserved markets.

"The Internet is a right, not a privilege," said Matt Ingrid, FreedomPop's COO, in 2011.

However, downloading at 8Mbps is a privilege, apparently — a privilege that comes with a 10GB data cap and starts at $10/month.

The company is also offering a number of value-added features, including the ability to divide data pools between family and friends.

It should be noted that FreedomPop relies heavily on Clearwire's WiMAX network to provide its service. Although WiMAX can sometimes achieve bandwidths that are comparable to a traditional broadband connection, it's not typically as reliable as a 4G connection.

FreedomPop seems to be aware of this, as it is planning a switch to Sprint's LTE network later this year. That fact alone should serve as an omen to early adopters — it is unclear what the fate of the WiMAX device will be once its 4G-based cousin, called the LTE Clip, debuts. Although it's unlikely FreedomPop would discontinue support, there is certainly the possibility that a 4G-based variant will instill a deep sense of buyer's remorse.

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