FreedomPop launches free unlimited home broadband, but you have to earn it (Updated)

FreedomPop BURSTAfter selling out its first batch of the Home Hub Burst router with free 1GB of home broadband Internet within 24 hours back in December 2012, FreedomPop is now opening its contractless service to anyone who orders a Burst device from its website.

Like the FreedomPop iPod touch sleeve and Photon Mi-Fi devices that are required to access Clearwire’s 4G WiMax network (Sprint’s LTE will be added later this year), you don’t need to purchase your own Burst router. You just need to put down $90 as a deposit to essentially borrow a device from the company by ordering one from its website (you’ll also be charged shipping). FreedomPop promises it won’t charge a cancellation fee and will get your deposit back if you want to stop using it, as the service requires no contract and you only pay as much as the bandwidth you need.

With the Burst router, you’ll be able to connect up to 10 devices to the network wirelessly, which sounds about right for a home Internet hub.

By default, you can get 1GB of service for free each month, but can also earn unlimited data if you are willing to participate in “partner promotions.” We asked FreedomPop CEO Stephen Stokolsto clarify just what kind of activities frugal customers should expect in exchange for unlimited Web surfing. He gave us some examples by email, “a user can get 100 MBs for printing a Chili’s coupon or 1.2 GB for signing up with, 2 GB for signing up for free Netflix trial, etc.” Other ways you can grow your free data bandwidth include: inviting your friends to try FreedomPop, filling surveys and watching videos from sponsors.

Since FreedomPop’s home broadband service is really geared for Internet users who only want to pay for the amount of data they use rather than a lump sum to a cable or DSL provider, it offers several options beyond the free 1GB or unlimited data service options. If you need the fastest Internet for gaming and Netflix-streaming, you can get 10GB of service for $20 per month (8Mbps). Alternatively, you can opt for a slightly slower speeds but still with 10GB of bandwitch for $15 a month, which should still be enough for sharing photos and occasional gaming. For light Internet users who just rely on the Internet for emails and online shopping, $10 a month will still get you 10GB of data but just at the slowest speeds (1.5Mbps; same speed as the free option).

Getting 1GB of free home broadband sounds almost too good to be true, with the ability to earn unlimited bandwidth practically unheard of in a telecommunication industry that wants to charge you for every megabyte you use beyond your monthly allotment. So why is FreedomPop going out of its way to build its business around a freemium model, where it is giving away its service for free or at very low rates? According to Stokols, the company was inspired by other successful freemium businesses like Skype, Spotify and Vistaprint, where each company found a way to use technology to change their respective industries – Skype for voice, Spotify for music, and Vistaprint for office supplies. FreedomPop is trying to apply what works for these companies to the Internet, “The overarching motivation was to try and come up with an innovative model to ensure any American can get high speed internet.”

Sometimes, it’s not worth the hassle to go for the free or cheap option – especially for mission critical services like the Internet at home. It’s one thing to temporarily lose cellular connection when you’re out and about, but you expect your home broadband to have next to zero down time. Just how reliable is this low-cost broadband, anyway? Stokols assures us that because FreedomPop piggybacks on Clearwire and Sprint’s network, your connection will have the, “same network quality [Clearwire and Sprint] charge users $50 per month for. Our service does not rely on ad hoc networks.” In fact, unlike DSL or cable speeds that vary throughout the day depending on the time, “[FreedomPop] speeds are consistent and don’t throttle or fluctuate during peak hours.” We can’t wait to put this claim to the test because we’re sick of the network delays that happen around prime time.

Can’t wait to switch to FreedmoPop so you can start cutting down your home Internet surfing costs? If you order one of the Burst routers today, it will arrive within the next couple of weeks. Tell us how you like it!

[UPDATE 3:58PM 3/6/2013: Updated post to include comments from FreedomPop CEO Stephen Stokols.]

Article originally published on 3/6/2013