Frequently Asked Questions about our 4G / LTE Membership Benefit
Q: What's the story with this wireless data membership benefit ?
A: The Calyx Institute is an educational organization that develops frameworks and sets of best practices to promote privacy on the Internet and in the field of telecommunications. For the past few years, one of our goals has been to do research on to develop Internet access strategies that offer "Privacy by Design".
One of our projects that we work on that relate to this goal are our Calyx.net VPN which is based on LEAP software, and which currently encrypts the "last mile" of Internet access, and will soon offer client-encrypted cloud-hosted email.
Our idea was that if you take any "last mile" internet connection, such as this wireless data connection, and then run a VPN such as LEAP over it, and also employ other anonymity tools such as Tor, and XMPP with OTR then you have a prototype for a zero-knowedge Internet access system which helps to define a set of best practices for Public Libraries, Colleges and other community based organizations who serve communities at risk that need and want privacy and security.
Q: Is there some kind of privacy aspect to Calyx's Mobile Data Membership Benefit ?
A: No, not really. There is nothing inherently private about it, by itself. It's just generic Sprint mobile data. For it to be more private, the member would need to take extra steps such as using Calyx's free Calyx.net VPN service, or use Tor browser, or run a privacy / anonymity focused operating system such as Tails, SubGraph OS, or Qubes on their computer.
Q: Will Sprint know who I am when I use Calyx's 4G / LTE Membership Benefit ?
A: Yes possibly. We are required to give the name of our subscribers for auditing purposes. But if you used Bitcoin to make your donation, then maybe we might not know your real name.
Q: How long have you been offering wireless data to Calyx's members ?
A: We have been providing this membership benefit to our members since 2013. Originally it was provisioned on the Clear network, and used WiMAX technology. The Clear WiMAX accounts Calyx provided to its members were unlimited over the course of the month. No data cap, no throttling, no overage charges. However Clear's WiMAX network was decommissioned after Clear was purchased by Sprint. As of April 2016, new members (and membership renewals) are being provided with connections using modern 4G / LTE technology instead.
Q: What are the specifications of the 4G / LTE service that Calyx provides to its members ?
A: The exact wording in our contract says "...a 30GB+ 4G LTE data-only plan (with no throttling, suspension, or overage charges after 30GB). The plan does not include off-network roaming and it is subject to any standard network management that Sprint may apply to commercial broadband data-only account holders."
Q: How many devices can connect to one of these wireless hotspots at once ?
A: 10 devices at once is the limit imposed by the software on the hotspot.
Q: How long will it take after I sign up as a member to receive my membership premiums ?
A: It may take around 2 weeks or more, after you sign up before you get a tracking email from UPS with your tracking information for the package. Though, it could take less time than that, we prefer to set expectations conservatively, and hopefully exceed our estimates. But don't expect to receive it within a couple of days in any case. We ship via UPS ground, and we are a tiny organization, striving to get better at fulfilling these membership benefits.
Q: What are the specifications on the Mobile Hotspots that Calyx provides to its members who elect to receive the 4G / LTE membership benefit ?
A: Please see our Wireless data equipment page for current equipment information.
Q: I just received a mobile hotspot as part of my Calyx membership. How do I use it ?
1) The hotspot should automatically activate itself when you power it on within the Sprint 4G/LTE service area. 2) You can get the wifi network name and password on the screen of the device by using the navigation button. 3) The default password for the administrative web interface is 'password'. Please be sure to change the administrative password immediately.
Q: Is there a SIM I can remove and put in another device?
A: There is a SIM card pre-installed in the hotspots. Sprint locks the hotspot to the SIM card number. Therefore you can't just obtain another Sprint branded hotspot and move your SIM card into it, unless you get Sprint's assistance. Some of our members have (on their own) gotten hardware set ups from places like LTEfix.com that allow them to use outdoor antennas and more powerful modems to get as high as 150mbps. Your results may vary. There is a facebook group called LTE.HACKS that might be interesting if you are thinking of going that route.
Q: So does that mean members don't get cut off at 30GB ?
A: That's right, the contract says "no throttling, suspension, or overage charges after 30GB". We began offering this membership benefit on the 4G/LTE network in April 2016 and so far we haven't heard of anyone being cut off for using too much data. Prior to that we were offering the same thing but on Clear's WiMax network and also there, nobody got cut off. On the first test hotspot we got in 2016, we used 100GB of data so far in just a day and a half and there was no problem. We assume there is some theoretical limit where Sprint will get upset but we don't know what it is. Our recommendation is to be cool about it and not be abusive or take advantage, but that in a general purpose scenario it should be ok.
Q: What happens if Sprint coverage isn't good where I am ?
A: That is something that we unfortunately have no control over. Realistically - Sprint's network is not the #1 rated network in the country. It is what it is. Sprint controls their network and we have no influence with them. Your results may vary depending on where you attempt to connect and how Sprint's coverage is there, and also due to network conditions. It is your responsibility to check Sprint's coverage map for your area, and if possible to test with someone else's mobile device to see if signal quality is acceptable to you before you donate. Also please be aware that our terms of service, which must be agreed to in order to become a member, says that we cannot be held responsible for where Sprint has coverage and where it doesn't.
Q: What happens if I need technical support?
A: Our partner, Mobile Citizen, handles tech support. They're available by phone at 877-216-9603 during business hours Mountain Time (not including weekends), or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. They generally respond to messages within 24-48 hours. Just let them know you're a Calyx member, and have your PTN or MEID ready. Your PTN/MEID can be found on the outside of the box your device comes in, or within the web UI.