How To Have Internet During A Power Outage And Where To Find Pay As You Go (Prepaid) Mobile Broadband Internet

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Ohio Derecho 2012
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The Value Of Computers

It is a rare day when I go without a computer. Yesterday, on June 29, 2012 a massive storm ripped through Ohio with 82 mph winds. Random junk is everywhere, poles have blown down, trees have blown down, power lines have been ripped down by the wind or pulled down by falling objects. Close to 2 million people are without power. Having been through natural disasters before, I know what is coming, a week with no power.

It is amazing how helpless we are without power. Luckily we have a chainsaw, a grill, a small generator, cars, gas, a roof over our heads, a clothesline, a corded old fashioned landline, a manual can opener... the list can go on and on. We have our batteries and our lanterns. We are ready.

There is one thing missing, Internet.

Below I have listed the tools that you will need to get online without any traditional power. Gas inverters, generators, car battery inverters, and mobile wireless Internet routers are all mentioned. You can find ideas as to where to buy these items as well as links to the places to purchase them.

Where To Get Power For Your Computer

A laptop or netbook is your best bet. You can charge up the battery and then use it in the comfort of your house or you can tote it to a local establishment that is lucky enough to have power. If you don't have a generator, a laptop is the easiest computer type to charge off of your car. You can buy small power inverters for car lighters. One that will run a laptop will generally be less that $40.00. Let your car run, plug in the inverter, and then plug in the laptop. You can computer from the car with the added bonus of heat or air conditioning, or just let it charge for later use. Inverters can be used to charge your cell phone, iPod, iPad, toothbrush, razor, or other small appliances. A gas inverter can also be purchased. They run around $1,000-$2,000 but will run more appliances and have more power. Check out the small inverter/generators that Yamaha and Honda make. The Yamaha one can be purchased through Amazon and Amazon has next day delivery available on this item.

How To Get Some Internet

The Internet is the next challenge. Many internet providers are not available when the power is out. If you use your cell phone as a hot spot you are in luck. The rest of us have to get creative. Cellular providers often have generators on their towers for back up power. Service will be slower during an outage as they have to run on reduced capacity, but it is often available. The challenge is that most wireless Internet service providers require contracts rather than pay as you go or prepaid service.

This is where Virgin Wireless is very useful. They are one of the least expensive prepaid options. The neat thing with these plans is that if you have a 4G router and live in a 4G service area, you can have unlimited monthly prepaid Internet for only $35.00! (It will be limited in the 3G areas). People on the old plans will be allowed to keep their old rates. A Router will run $50.00-$160.00. It is a good chunk of change but very handy in an emergency.

The stand alone routers will work as a hotspot that can connect multiple users over standard wifi. The USB version will work with just your computer but you may be able to set up an ad hoc network and have your computer rebroadcast the Internet.

Amazon's Virgin Mobile Wireless Internet Routers

Where To Buy Wireless Routers In An Emergency

The big question: HELP! How can I get Internet now???

If you are here, I bet the power is off at your place or you are worried that it will be off in the near future. If you have time, check out the providers listed below. The providers often sell routers. If not here are some ideas for local shopping (check the website if possible before going, Target and Walmart list local inventories online, look for mobile hotspot, mobile Internet, or Virgin Wireless):

Buying in a store:

  1. Walmart
  2. Target
  3. Best Buy

Mail order with next day delivery:

Amazon is great for this. If you are in a bad area and can't get out, Amazon may be able to get in. I ordered a generator and batteries from them during our outage earlier this year. If you have Amazon Prime, 2-day shipping is free and next-day shipping is $1.99/item. If you don't have Amazon Prime, you can still get those options, they will just cost more. Amazon really will get it to you in 1-2 days. You will see the expected delivery day clearly throughout the ordering process so that you can decide if it is worth the shipping. If you are having transportation issues in your area due to damage, give Amazon a call and see if they can help you out with answers about your area.

A Side Note On Mobile Broadband

There are a few mobile broadband companies that now offer pay as you go services. Pay as you go or prepaid is the best choice for those who only need mobile Internet every now and then. As you can tell from above, my favorite is Virgin Wireless due to the pricing plans. If Virgin is not in your area or does not appeal to you, there are other options. In no particular order:

  1. Verizon Wireless
  2. DataJack
  3. NetZero - Amazing plan rates from what I see. You can even get a very low amount of data each month for what appears to be $0.00 each month!
  4. Cricket
  5. Clear
  6. *** FreedomPop *** This is a new service. Get a router by ordering one and paying the deposit fee. On the lowest plan you can get 500 mb FREE a month!!!!! The down side is that FreedomPop's 4G has limited coverage so check the map before you order. The upside is obvious.... FREE 4G!

Possible Public Locations

  • Check around to see what libraries still have power. They often have available Internet as well as heat or air conditioning.
  • Many fast food restaurants now have free wifi
  • Try a coffee shop
  • Drive around until your computer shows a wifi signal

This Article Written Using:

  • MacBook Pro 15"
  • Gas powered generator
  • Virgin Walmart MiFi 2200

More by this Author


Comments 11 comments

RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 4 years ago from the short journey

Thanks for this info--it's good to be aware of options.


Lwelch profile image

Lwelch 4 years ago from USA Author

I hope that you never need them - but it was a blessing when we had our outage a while back


devjeet 4 years ago

In India, where power cut is normal thing...we use to access internet through my cell phone and it works fine for me.


Mark Hunt profile image

Mark Hunt 4 years ago

"Drive around until your computer shows a wifi signal" This is definitely me. LOL... I don’t know why I never thought of a different option. Thank you so much for the tips.


Lwelch profile image

Lwelch 4 years ago from USA Author

That is awesome! I hope you have a good stumbler app when you do that (or some local war chalkers). If you are in Virgin's 4G area, I just noticed that the 4G routers are 50% off. I love my 3G one. It was close to $200 when I bought it.... the 4G are at $60 right now. No clue if that will last.

I keep thinking about getting one and then stopping my data on my iPad and just using the router.

I hope that you aren't stuck down South in the US where the power is out as I type this!

Thanks for the comment and the read!


Lwelch profile image

Lwelch 4 years ago from USA Author

To all losing power due to the hurricane - UGH! I am sooooo sorry. I am sitting here hoping the wind in Ohio from the edge of the storm doesn't take us down.

If you need a router virgin is a good place to start. Walmart and others carry these routers. If you can't get one that way do to the storm, try amazon. Their next day shipping is fairly low and if you have amazon prime 2 day is free with 1 day only being 1.99. If you are a student you can get amazon prime for free for a while.


HoneyBB profile image

HoneyBB 3 years ago from Illinois

Thanks for sharing this useful information. I will be checking into Virgin's prepaid plan. It sounds like a great deal to me.


Lwelch profile image

Lwelch 3 years ago from USA Author

Virgin was a lifesaver for me more than once. I have my little modem just hanging out waiting for trouble.


wheelinallover profile image

wheelinallover 3 years ago from Central United States

When I was using the local telephone company for internet I often spent days without internet. It would have been nice to have a way to be online. What to me is amazing is I live in tornado ally. Since 2006 when I returned to my home there has never been an electric outage. I moved to cable internet in 2011 there has never been an outage with it either. My time is coming. (laughing here)


Lwelch profile image

Lwelch 3 years ago from USA Author

Well, I guess tornado alley isn't broken line alley. Maybe your lines and poles are maintained, knowing the winds may tear them down.


TTGReviews profile image

TTGReviews 22 months ago

One of my coworkers has a Verizon Jetpack and uses it whenever he's on the go during work trips.

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