Saturday, October 13, 2012

Low income computing and emergency mobile in Canada: Rogers Paygo by the minute with 100 MB/month data.

I've been tracking low cost approaches to computing over the past few years, especially because the cost of personal computing has increased so much.

Increased you say? But, you say, it's possible to buy a (not too useful) Nexus 7 for $200? What about those low cost wintops? Heck, the Raspberry Pi is almost free! How can the cost have risen?

Ahh, but today a computer without net access is almost a doorstop -- and net access is not cheap. It's not hard to find families paying more for monthly communications than they would for payments on a new car. Even though we are relatively cheap (rabbit ear TV/no cable, 2 netflix DVD plan, kids are H2O wireless voice-only mobile, war on AT&T) our family's yearly all media communications bill is probably close to $3,000 [1]. That's unaffordable for many families. It dwarfs even the 4 year amortized price of a MacBook.

So how low can one go and still be able to do basic email (Gmail), basic messing (iMessage or ad-supported), maybe some Google Voice or VOIP [2], perhaps a bit of Facebook? Based on some headache inducing research from a recent trip to Canada i think one could do it for about $170 a year including Canadian taxes - not including the cost of acquiring a 3GS (0-$150 depending on friends and family)

Here's how I get those numbers:

  • Buy a $100 voucher for a Rogers PayGo by-the-minute plan. This will provide emergency mobile service for 40 cent/minute and expires after 1 year. There's a $1 fee each month for "911 access".[3]
  • Pay $10 a month for 100MB of data. [4]
  • Get a GSM iPhone 3GS Need iCloud services for basic backup and computer-free configuration so need iOS 6.
Are there cheaper ways to get emergency voice service, basic email, messaging and Facebook in Canada? From what I've seen in the US PayGo market this is probably about as cheap is it gets. The beauty of PayGo vouchers, of course, is that cost overruns are contained.

[1] Guesstimate, includes some media costs which aren't purely communication costs. [2] Google Voice is not VOIP of course and it's also not available in Canada. [3] I can't rule out other hidden fees that may hit. Mobile carriers are evil. 

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