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Get a NetZero 4G wireless hot spot for $99.95--and a year of free service

If you live in a Clear coverage area and consume only modest amounts of data, this might just be the mobile-broadband deal of a lifetime.

You pony up the $99.95, NetZero will give you the 4G service--for the first year, anyway.
You pony up the $99.95, NetZero will give you the 4G service--for the first year, anyway. Dong Ngo/CNET

Today only, Newegg has a killer deal on an 8GB flash drive... (Kidding! Just a little joke for anyone who was following yesterday's comment thread).

In case you missed it, CNET's Dong Ngo recently reported on a new 4G broadband service from NetZero.

I thought I'd revisit this from the Cheapskate perspective, as it's kind of an unprecedented deal. For $99.95, you get the NetZero 4G Hotspot, which can share your 4G connection with up to eight devices. (You can also get a USB stick for $49.95, but I honestly don't see the point.)

That's not the interesting part. This is: NetZero offers a data plan that's absolutely free for the first year. It's limited, to be sure, but users with modest data needs may find it sufficient. They'll certainly find it cheaper than any other 4G broadband service--as well as some 3G ones.

NetZero, best known for its dial-up services (you remember dial-up, right?), delivers its 4G courtesy of WiMax provider Clear. If you happen to live and/or travel in a Clear coverage area, you're golden. The service promises download speeds ranging from 3-6Mbps, with bursts of up to 10Mbps.

But coverage may prove to be a bigger obstacle than the data cap (which I'll address momentarily). Indeed, I'd really hoped to bring you some hands-on testing results, and in fact was all set to get a demo unit from NetZero--but I live in metro Detroit, one of the few major cities where there's no Clear service. (You guys cover Grand Rapids but not Detroit? Come on!) Phoenix is another.

Assuming you do have coverage, your free plan affords you 200MB of data per month. That may not sound like much, but it's enough for e-mail, Web browsing, and the like on a sporadic basis. Need more? NetZero's Basic plan bumps the cap to 500MB for $9.95 per month. You can hop back and forth between plans as needed, and there's no contract involved.

Contrast that with something like the TruConnect Mobile MiFi 2200, a 3G hot spot that costs the same ($99) but charges $4.95 per month, plus 3.9 cents per megabyte. Or the $129 Virgin Mobile version of that same 3G hotspot; its plans start at $10 for just 100MB of data and 10 days of service.

NetZero gives you a significantly faster hot spot and cheaper overall data rates. (Reminder: the free plan is free.) That sounds mighty tasty to me.

Your thoughts? Can you survive on 200MB per month? If so, think you'll jump on this deal?

Bonus deal: My three-year-old Toshiba HDTV just died a sudden and out-of-warranty death. Bleh. After some research, I decided to roll the dice on the U.S.-made Sigmac LE55ABD, a 55-inch LED TV with passive 3D and an ultraslim design. Wal-Mart sells it for $899 (plus tax)--which may help explain the two dozen glowing user reviews. Stay tuned for my own review in the next week or so.