I have been using the MiFi for weeks now, and it still thrills me to do so. There is something liberating about pushing the MiFi power button, waiting a few seconds, and then getting any Wi-Fi enabled device onto the web. No wires, no fuss, simple elegance. The MiFi I own is from Verizon, and what sets it apart from those USB modems of the past is the ability to get up to five gadgets online with a single connection. Even when I am working on a laptop, I always have the Palm Pre or the iPhone 3G sharing the connection, too. I share that connection with others rarely, and then usually only family members. I realized today that I actually share the MiFi connections less than I have shared the old, USB connection in the past.
So why don’t I share the connectivity more often than in the past, given the easy ability to do so with the MiFi?
It is a Wi-Fi router, after all, and it only takes me a few seconds to get someone connected to my personal, little hotspot. The answer is not as straightforward as you might think. I do it less often because it is too easy to share. How’s that? Well, the MiFi appears as a simple Wi-Fi hotspot to any device. That means that computers treat it just like any other hotspot. The difference is that my little MiFi hotspot comes with a 5 GB cap on monthly data consumption. If I exceed that cap, Verizon charges me usurious rates for the overage. That’s enough of a reason to make me think long and hard about sharing this connection.
I mentioned that I have shared my Verizon data connection in the past, when I was using a tethered USB modem. That method caused me to take specific actions to initiate the connection sharing. I would connect to the web using the USB stick, enable Internet sharing on the laptop, and then instruct the lucky person I was sharing with how to tap into my little network. This is a lot more work than the MiFi sharing but strangely enough, that’s why I do it less now with the MiFi.
My old method required me to manually initiate the data connection first, and then enabled the sharing. That put me in control over when it happened, and for how long the sharing lasted. When I wanted to watch my data consumption, I would just kill the sharing. That is not easily done with the MiFi.
The MiFi Wi-Fi (say that 10 times really fast) connection requires a password to tap into the hotspot. I have control over who gets on the hotspot, and thus who shares my data connection, by restricting who gets the password. The problem is the way that most devices access Wi-Fi hotspots. Once a password is entered on the device, it is remembered so that it can automatically access the hotspot in the future. Therein lies the problem, and why I say the MiFi is too easy to share. If I allow someone in a coffee shop to access my little MiFi hotspot once, then that person can automatically tap into my network connection in the future without my knowledge. I would be happily working away, while my data cap was getting assaulted by others without my awareness. That scares me, quite frankly.
Sure I could change my MiFi access password often to prevent this, but it’s an involved process that defeats the easy access. It’s far easier to not allow anyone to share the connection, and that is what is happening. So, even though it’s much easier to share, I am in fact more selfish with my MiFi. That’s what data caps will do for you.