The following post is a Q&A with Michelle Warner, Director of Mobile Citizen, a nonprofit organization providing affordable mobile Internet. She has spent her career helping nonprofits of all sizes and is passionate about helping them build their capacity so they are able to innovate and grow.
1. Can you please share the story of how and when Mobile Citizen started?
Mobile Citizen was established by five nonprofit foundations that have been bringing technology to the education and nonprofit communities for over 25 years. In 2006, these foundations entered into a unique, 30-year partnership agreement with CLEAR allowing us to offer cutting-edge mobile Internet service exclusively to schools and nonprofits. Mobile Citizen is committed to helping nonprofits re-imagine the way they work.
2. What network do nonprofits connect to when they are using your service?
Mobile Citizen’s low-cost, high-speed mobile Internet service is 4G technology powered by CLEAR.
3. What are the up front and ongoing costs for getting started?
The process for getting nonprofits and schools started is simple. Mobile Citizen’s low-cost, high-speed mobile Internet service is available for only $120 per account per year. And they’ll need to decide on a wireless modem ranging in price from $38 – $73. That’s it!
4. Can you please share some tips for making sure nonprofits that sign up for your service get the best service possible?
Certainly! In our work with nonprofits across the country, we see how important it is for them to always stay connected, even when they are not in the office. That means their tools need to be too. If the goal is to work more productively and cost-effectively, nonprofits using a laptop or netbook and their own personal Wi-Fi network for use wherever and whenever they need it, have more options. Here are some best practices our nonprofit customers have shared for getting the most out of their service. They:
• Empower field staff with instant access to online databases
• Enable BYOD programs with low-cost, high-speed mobile Internet
• Provide community-based access points for programs
• Access connectivity for onsite special event registration
• Stay productive while in the field
• Monitor & update social networking sites
• Stream video for use in outreach, fundraising and training
• Create virtual office or telecommuting policies
• Control administrative costs
5. What are your thoughts on nonprofits using your service as a redundant internet connection in their office if their internet goes down?
Many of our customers use our mobile Internet service as a cost-effective back up for their mission critical operations. One example I like to share is Feeding America, the national hunger relief organization. Since one aspect of Feeding America’s mission is to provide assistance during disasters, it is important for their operations to be resilient to disasters so they can continue to serve neighbors in need. Mobile Citizen’s Internet service provides a low cost back up alternative where it is was too expensive to install a second hardwired Internet line. For more information on how Feeding America is leveraging mobile Internet to achieve their mission, click here.
6. Can you create a hot spot and allow multiple staff to connect at once?
Yes. We offer a mobile hot spot which safely and securely connects up to eight Wi-Fi-enabled devices. This personal Wi-Fi network is great for on-site event registrations, work groups on the move, and community-based training. We also offer a USB modem for a 1:1 connection, and a desktop modem, which also creates a hot spot for up to eight users. The desktop modem is an option for groups working in an office, board members coming in for a meeting, training groups, etc.
7. How does your service compare to other providers who are providing a similar service?
Our service is 4G which makes it lightning fast and easy to use. But what we’re told really sets us apart is our low cost. Mobile Citizen’s wireless Internet service is $120 per account per year. That breaks down to $10 a month. For friends of Community IT Innovators, we are extending this great price to include three extra free months. That means 15 months for only $120 which is a 70% savings from retail.
One of our nonprofit partners is PCs for People based in Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota. They provide personal computers and education to people who have limited experience with technology due to social, physical and/or economic circumstances. As times changed and they realized that simply providing a computer was insufficient, they looked to large home Internet providers to help. After years of searching for a flexible, affordable mobile Internet partner, they discovered Mobile Citizen. In October of 2012, they began bundling our low-cost, high-speed mobile Internet service and I’m happy to report that the people they were able to serve doubled from the previous year.
8. What new services have you recently launched?
We recently launched a Staff Purchase Program extending our low-cost service to nonprofit employees, members, directors and volunteers and are in the process of rolling it out across the country. Now for the first time, organizations can partner with Mobile Citizen to extend this service offering as an employee or member benefit via Mobile Citizen’s direct purchase program. Our hope is that our new Staff Purchase Program will also be an affordable option for nonprofit employees and stakeholders needing Internet access at work, at home or on the go.
For more information, email [email protected] or call 877.216.9603.