Thankfully, there's an alternative: Virgin's new Broadband2Go offers no-contract, pay-as-you-go wireless Internet access. What's the catch? I'll have to get back to you on that.
To use the service, you'll need Virgin's cleverly named Broadband2Go USB Device (which is in fact Novatel's Ovation MC760 wireless modem). It'll run you $149.99 when it lands at Best Buy later this month.
Like any good USB device, the MC760 contains its own software (for Windows only -- sorry, Mac users), so you can plug it into any PC and get online straight away. It also doubles as a microSD reader, meaning you can pop in a memory card and use the modem as mobile storage. (For example, here's an 8GB microSD card for just $15.99.)
As noted, there's no contract required to use Broadband2Go (which, in case you're wondering, taps Sprint's network to deliver 3G Internet). You do, however, need to choose a service plan. The least-expensive plan costs $10, which gives you 100MB of data and expires in 10 days -- not at all a bad deal if you're taking a trip and need Internet access only during that time. Here's an overview of all the plans:
If you need more time (or data), you can "top up," meaning you just pay for another plan. The good news is that there's no monthly minimum, so you really can use Broadband2Go on an as-needed basis. That's awesome.
I'll have some hands-on coverage to share with you in the coming weeks, so stay tuned to find out if this is as good as it sounds.
In the meantime, what do you think? Is this just the mobile-Internet solution you've been waiting for? Sound off in the comments.