My 3 ½-year-old thinks Internet access is her God-given right. She doesn’t understand why it’s not available to power her Netflix and Disney Junior habit on demand. So when I saw the Chevy commercial advertising built-in Wi-Fi in its new vehicles, I was very intrigued by this technology to say the least.

The commercial led me to believe that the only way I was going to fulfil my data-hungry daughter’s Internet expectations was to buy a new car, but I know better than that. So I bribed my brother, Travis Schumacher, general manager of Tranquility Internet Services, with lunch to pick his brain about how people can get Internet on the go.

Here’s the skinny
To harness the power of mobile Internet, you need both an air-born Internet signal and a vacuum-like receiver to suck it out of the sky. No device is physically capable of manufacturing Internet from the sky when there is no signal from which to pull it. Basically, there’s no way to get Internet everywhere yet.

Most on-the-go devices are generally small enough to fit in the palm of your hand and relatively inexpensive, though they do require a monthly service plan:

  1. Smartphone hotspot: Because most of us already treat our smartphones or tablets like appendages, this tends to be the most popular option. It’s a good solution for a home backup connection or the occasional car trip. The most direct path to utilizing the service is calling your cellular provider. This usually results in a monthly fee. It’s great for on the go, but a smartphone hotspot tends to chew through your battery life as quickly as your monthly data plan.
  2. Mobile hotspot: These act like a router capturing a 3G or 4G signal and projecting it for use on five to 10 devices depending on the hotspot. If you plan on using the Internet quite a bit, this may be a good solution to keep your phone battery out of the red. Some products, such as the Verizon Jetpack, offer up to 16 hours of battery life. To get started you’ll need to purchase a device and then sign up for the compatible monthly service.
  3. Dongle: “Dongle” refers to a device that can be plugged into your computer’s USB port. In addition to tying up a USB port, they act as receivers pulling the Internet from the airwaves and channeling it into the spot you need it most, your computer. Because it has to be plugged in to work its magic, this limits Internet delivery to one device at a time.
  4. Portable wireless router: Chevy installed one of these beauties in some of its new 2015 models. These routers are a bit more powerful than a smartphone hotspot and boast enough bandwidth for multiple devices and the ability to broadcast the signal to a 150-foot radius around the vehicle. The car must be running to enjoy surfing.

Is the Chevy service really all it’s cracked up to be?

Statement: The system achieves speeds up to 1.5 mbps.

Considerations: Unfortunately, 1.5 mbps is not that fast. It’s the minimum requirement to stream Netflix. “The biggest thing to pay attention to is the coverage area,” Travis says. “If the coverage area is good, you should be able to stream some movies and music.” Travis isn’t sure it will be much faster than your phone. It will, however, allow more than one device to connect at a time. Consider adjusting your Netflix video quality to standard definition to stretch your data.

Statement: Your first 3 months or 3GB of data are included with the purchase of the vehicle. Monthly data plans, starting as low as $5.

Considerations: This sounds like a super deal, but using the AT&T data calculator (, my daughter will blow through 3G in no time. She can only watch 34 half-hour episodes of Strawberry Shortcake before she eats up the entire promo. The $5-a-month plan is only enough juice to stream four episodes. Fortunately, the 3GB monthly plan isn’t all that expensive, just $30 a month.

Statement: Giving you the most comprehensive in-vehicle safety and connectivity system available.

Considerations: As long as the driver isn’t using the awesome connectivity to text and play online, the vehicles will offer some pretty impressive safety features such as emailed monthly diagnostics reports and a promise from OnStar to work with the police to recover stolen vehicles. Also reports, “Connected cars will be able to send data that the car collects from its surrounding environment to the cloud, and synthesized data from numerous cars on the road will give drivers real-time information about things like road conditions or traffic congestion.”

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