We have a summer home on Puget Sound that is on the very edge of cell phone services. When we first bought the house, I was pretty happy with Comcast. They sent two servicemen out there who replaced the cable going to my house. I had basic TV service and internet, it worked fine, and the rates were reasonable.
However, after the first year, Comcast started charging me more and more for TV and internet service. I get basic TV service at my usual home in California for about $25 per month (it's just basic) and internet from either AT&T DSL or Comcast for a very low $15 per month. It's been a great situation; I just switch internet providers every year to keep getting such a low rate for my internet.
Comcast in Washington State got worse and worse. Not only did they want to charge me more and more, but they got harder and harder to deal with. If you did not have a landline phone or cell phone (my cell phones would not work at the house) then it was an absolute nightmare trying to call Comcast to discuss service, set up an appointment, etc. If you happened to enter the wrong phone number when calling Comcast, you'd get a representative who would modify and discuss the wrong account -- thus messing up my account in California rather than starting service in WA state.
One time, I tried to return a cable box at the local Comcast office in WA state about a week before I was going to leave. I was in the area, and I wanted to return the box and get errands like this done before all the days it would take to pack before leaving. To my amazement, the Comcast agent said "No, you can't return the box now!" She told me that if I returned the box, then I was paying for a service that I was not able to receive, and Comcast could not allow that. Are you kidding me?! I very patiently explained the situation -- that this was my vacation home. She relented and actually let me return the box. Guess what -- the next day Comcast cancelled my service and later sent me a bill for the box, stating that I had not returned it! I guess she was not as good as she promised.
So, despite the fact that I can get TV and internet service from Comcast at my WA state house for about $55, I really, really don't want to have to call them to start service up again. I discovered, after much research, that Verizon would work well at our house. We had been with AT&T, and I have tried a Sprint network data modem (through Virgin Mobile and Datajack), and neither of these networks works at our house (Sprint-based data modems work intermittently and slowly). Verizon, however, works just fine. I bought a USB data modem, hooked it up to a Cradlepoint router, and voila! I had great 3G internet supplied by Verizon this summer. However, it cost $60 per month. I have a problem paying that much when I have internet at my CA house for $15 per month.
I've therefore been researching various cell phone data providers, to try to get internet access using a USB data modem or wifi hotspot. There are a lot of choices, all of them relatively expensive if you need more than a little data. After a month in our WA state house using a USB data modem, I found that with my normal email and web surfing (no Netflix streaming videos or downloading large files), I use about 2 Gb of data per month. The rates from various providers for this amount of data per month are as follows (and for me, none of them except Verizon will work):
Virgin Mobile (Sprint Network): 2Gb of data for $35 per month
Datajack (Sprint Network): 200Mb of data for $10 per month; $40 for 2Gb
FreedomPop (Sprint 4G Network):
using their Bolt stick USB modem: only 4G, first 500Mb free
using their Overdrive Pro wifi hotspot: allows use of Sprint 3G network also, first 500Mb free, $3.99 charge each month for that "free 500Mb")
AT&T prepaid data using a USB data modem: seems to offer ONLY a 5Gb per month plan at $50
AT&T prepaid tablet plan: $20 for 1Gb of data for a month; $30 for 2Gb
Verizon prepaid data for a USB modem or hotspot: $60 for 3Gb for one month, no 2Gb option
Verizon prepaid tablet plan: $14.99 for 250 Mb of data for a month; $30 for 3Gb; no 1G or 2Gb options
Clearly, getting a tablet that is able to use Verizon's data network is a good deal. Verizon has the best network in the US, so even in my WA state house, I can get a clear cellular data signal. If that tablet allows tethering, so that I can send emails and do most of my work using my laptop, then that would be ideal. The iPad 3 offers all these features.
I had an iPad 2 with a Verizon modem. However, the iPad 3 with a Verizon modem allows the iPad to share Verizon data when the iPad serves as a wifi hotspot. I prefer to do most of my work, especially writing emails and doing office work, using my MacBook Pro laptop. The iPad 3 will hopefully let me do this. I just bought an iPad 3. Anyone want a used iPad 2 with Verizon modem in great shape? Let me know.
I have been keeping an eye on other tablets by manufacturers other than Apple. Almost none of these manufacturers and tablets come with data modems -- they are almost all wifi-only models. There are a very few tablets that come with cellular modems for AT&T or Verizon. For instance, a Samsung Galaxy Tab 2, 7-inch model, is normally sold in the US only with wifi capability. I see this at Amazon for $169 for a 7" model today. I can see a GSM-enabled Galaxy Tab 2 at Amazon, which is an international model. This costs $269, about $100 more. These have great reviews. I wonder if the Verizon model will allow hotspot tethering without having to jailbreak it.