I recently suggested that consumers avoid using Verizon Wireless MiFi devices for Internet access because the unit’s unexpectedly high data usage caused people to overrun their limited monthly data plans. But rural readers with few Internet access alternatives are asking what to do.
They face two problems: MiFi devices, which convert a cellular signal into a Wi-Fi hot spot for PCs and other gadgets, often download more data than customers were led to expect. Verizon Wireless says that’s caused by software running in the background of PCs. If so, PC users would fare better with an unlimited wired Internet service, but those are rare in rural areas.
Barbara Waldrop, who lives outside of Lake Wales, Fla., uses a MiFi because wired cable TV Internet service isn’t available and satellite Internet service is slow and affected by weather. MiFi “has a faster connection (than satellite), but I’m having the data usage problems that everyone else is talking about. What are my other options for Internet?”
Vivian Gibson of Bartow, Fla., has a similar MiFi problem. She wishes she could preserve her monthly data allotment by filtering out website advertising. “I’ve had to limit visiting certain websites because I’m unable to opt out of these ads,” she said.
A: The availability of Internet service varies widely based on where you live. But consumers can find out which wired services are available to them by typing in their ZIP code at sites such as tinyurl.com/hq7sofg or tinyurl.com/gw8tnz7. For example, typing in the ZIP code for Lake Wales reveals that landline telephone company Verizon (which is separate from cellular company Verizon Wireless) offers an unlimited, but relatively slow one-to-three megabit-download DSL land line service for $35 a month. It might be a practical MiFi alternative for Waldrop, who already has land line phone service. Verizon also offers faster downloads (up to 15 megabits) in some parts of her area, but she’ll have to call to see if she’s eligible for them.
If there’s no better alternative to MiFi Internet service in your rural area, you can use ad-blocking software to minimize the amount of data you download. While there is much debate about whether ad-blocking is a good idea — in the long run it might eliminate free Internet content that is supported by advertising — a rural Internet user on a limited data plan may not have any other choice. For a list of free ad-blocking programs, see tinyurl.com/zfkmro7. For more on the ad-blocker software debate, see tinyurl.com/q3rw2q5.
Q: How can I convert a PostScript (.ps) file I received into an Adobe Systems PDF (.pdf) file that’s easily read and printed?
Nunzio Bolognese, for both, Reading, Pa.
A: Several websites will convert your Postscript file to a PDF for free. See tinyurl.com/jncye4s, tinyurl.com/jx8e8d7 or tinyurl.com/znad5xw. (Ignore the ads urging you to download other, unrelated software. The file conversion is done online.)
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