Dear parents, thanks for all the kind things you said about my new job at Karma on Facebook, Twitter, and even over the phone. I feel like our recent communication is modern, multichannel, and heartfelt. And while you might've felt a little silly asking me ", what does it actually do?" I didn't think you sounded silly at all, and in fact I'm glad you asked because it gives me a chance to write this faux personal letter while actually performing my job as a Content Marketing Specialist at Karma or whatever I'm supposed to do here.

There are a few ways to connect to the internet, but there are two primary ones most of us use every day: we connect our laptops or tablets over WiFi, and our smartphones use 4G wireless. In the end, it all goes to the same place; the difference is the hops, skips and jumps the signal takes along the way.

When we use WiFi at home or at the office or at Starbucks, we’re connecting to a “router” which distributes an internet connection provided to it by a “modem” (typically installed by your cable provider or phone company). The modem hooks into a chain of successively larger and more fundamental pipes which make up the internet.

When your phone connects to the internet over 4G, it communicates with a cellular tower which operates much like a router — passing your internet requests on to a service provider and the larger internet.

A "mobile hotspot" acts as a synthesis of these technologies. It’s a WiFi router, so you can connect your laptop, phone, or tablet to it and get online like you do at home. But instead of plugging in to a physical modem to get online, a mobile hotspot connects to the cellular network the same way a phone does.

So, basically, that’s what Karma is: a 4G mobile hotspot, or, more formally, a “Mobile 4G Wireless Hotspot Router.” I’d get in trouble for using a scary term like that in our marketing materials, but because it’s just us I feel comfortable sharing the gory details. Right now Karma doesn’t work everywhere a phone does, but the next version will. I went ahead and checked coverage for where you guys live and work, though, and you’re totally covered!

Most 4G hotspots are sold a lot like a phone. You buy one from a carrier like AT&T or Verizon with a two year contract, and pay a monthly fee for an allowance of data — whether you use it or not. For instance, a similar device on Verizon comes with a $20 monthly "line fee" and $30 a month for 4GB of data. That's a good deal if you use exactly 4GB of data a month for two years straight, but what's more likely is you'll use more data when you're traveling, and less data when you're home. (Most people, on average, use about 1GB a month). With Karma you buy the device outright and pay for the data you need, and that data never expires.

And that's what I do now! I tell people about Karma. There are other cool things Karma does too, like giving you free data when you share your connection with others, but now you at least know the basics of the technology for the next time you need to explain my employment status to a curious relative.

I promise to call soon. And visit! I'm seriously going to visit you guys. You heard it here first. On the Karma blog.

Your loving son, Paul

About Paul Miller

That guy who left the internet for a year