Hi, I'm Paul Miller. You may know me as "the guy who left the internet for a year." As of this week, I've joined Karma. My job is to write about the company, about the industry it finds itself in, and about the technology that's pushing this industry into the future.
The internet can be overwhelming at times. It seems like it's permeated every part of our society, and every part of our lives. My yearlong experiment, which ran from May 2012 to May 2013, was to see what my life would be like without it. And, well... it wasn't great.
If you're interested in all the gory details, I encourage you to read the Offline series I produced for The Verge. But basically I learned a lot about "myself" and the "true nature of things," but ended up starved for human connection. "The internet is where people are" was my ultimate conclusion. And I happen to like people.
When I got back on the internet, I was trying hard to hold out for the forthcoming iPhone 5S. I'd spent a year without a smartphone, what was another few months? A few months too many, as it turns out. When your entire job description is to stay away from the internet, it's not hard to turn it off. The internet isn't yet vital for continued human survival. But when the internet is an option, you want it all the time, everywhere.
We noticed our glaring oversight: she couldn't get on WiFi
So I broke down and walked into T-Mobile. Emboldened by their new consumer-friendly plans, I bought an iPhone 5 with all the data fixins, including hotspot service. It wasn't cheap, but I walked out of the store with a new kind of freedom: I can internet from wherever, whenever, and on any device. Like any upper-middle-class 21st century human.
That night my friends gathered for a rooftop movie atop a neighbor's apartment building. I lugged my projector down the street and up eight flights of stairs. As people gathered blankets, chairs, and snacks, I dangled an extension cord down from the roof and into my friend's bathroom window a couple floors below. Then my friend pulled out her laptop, and we noticed our glaring oversight: she couldn't get on WiFi.
Our plan had been to watch Before Sunrise on Netflix, but without an internet connection we were soon discussing the merits of my friend's limited DVD collection. I had a different idea. I pulled out my newly minted iPhone, fresh off its first charge, and turned on the Personal Hotspot feature. I didn't know what to expect: T-Mobile's coverage was notoriously spotty at the time, and it hadn't even officially launched 4G LTE in New York. But I was prepared to be the hero.
The internet is where people are, and Karma can help
And I was. The movie streamed flawlessly, in HD. We had more technical difficulties with the wind ripping at the sheet we'd taped to the wall than with the gigabyte of compressed Ethan Hawke imagery flying through the air, into my phone, and onto my friend's computer.
Ultimately, a company like Karma isn't in the "4G hotspot" business or the "prepaid data" business. It's about connecting people to the internet, and, more importantly, what the internet enables those people to do. People are going to do what they have to, and pay what they must, to get connected, because people want to be connected. Karma makes the experience a little bit nicer, and a little bit cheaper. And I like that. The internet is where people are, and Karma can help.
Today I cancelled my iPhone's hotspot plan, and my Nexus 7's data plan. I'm saving around $60 a month. I put that money toward 5GB of Karma data, which will never expire. My new Karma device sits happily in my shirt pocket, ready for coffee shops, airport lounges, Time Warner Cable outages, and movie nights to come. I hear Before Sunrise had a couple of critically acclaimed sequels...