Free Internet service? FreedomPop, a WiFi provider that uses the Clear network, says yes. The company is rolling out a social sharing service today (Feb. 7) that allows users to give away unused bandwidth to their friends.
"We already share everything from cars to couches," Stephen Stokols, FreedomPop founder, said in a statement. "Now we can share our Internet capacity."
All FreedomPop customers get 500MB of free data to use for Internet service each month. However, you must purchase a device from FreedomPop to receive the service. Much like a Verizon hotspot , you can buy a stick for laptops, a 4G hotspot that's smaller than a Post-It note or a sleeve for an iPod. FreedomPop is waiting for Federal Communications Commission approval on its iPhone 4 and 4S sleeve, but the hotspot works with any device and can support up to eight devices.
Of course, 500MB of data won't take you beyond emails and Facebook socializing. You can purchase additional data from FreedomPop at reasonable prices — around $10 for a gigabyte — but you can get extra data from friends for free. Read more: How Much Smartphone Data Do I Need?
Say you're going on a business trip and you want a WiFi connection for your iPad in the hotel without charging $15 to your room each day. With FreedomPop's new social sharing, you can ask friends to give you the extra you want.
And if you're serious about sharing data, you can invite friends from Twitter , Facebook and your email contacts to join FreedomPop. As long as your friend remains a customer, you'll get 50MB of free data each month.
"The hidden secret in the wireless industry is that 80 percent of users consume less than the amount they are paying for each month and the rest goes to waste or AT&T's bottom line," Stokols said. "If I need more data this month while my friend doesn't, I should be able to share it and vice versa."
Currently, FreedomPop uses Clearwire's 4G WiMax network and plans to add Sprint's LTE system by late spring. While the company encourages people to cut the carrier cord and replace service with their data solution along with a VoIP provider like Skype , people on a contract don't have that choice without incurring termination fees. However, why not give it a try while you're on contract and build your pool of data users?
It also may be a cost-effective solution for people who want WiFi anywhere for their laptop or tablet — and you can't get cheaper than free.