The Europeans are very advanced in terms of accessibility to mobile phones and the internet.
As I mentioned in a previous post, my mother has a really cheap mobile phone that only cost about €25 and she can ‘top it up’ for as little as €5 at a time (about $7) with no contract or service fees or such. She gets a reminder on her phone when the money is running low and she can just enter her credit card number for a certain amount and off she goes again.
In Italy, I was able to get an internet key (looks like a thumb drive that you stick in the side of your computer) for €20 with an unlimited usage plan for €9 ($12) a month. Like my mother’s phone, this can be ‘topped up’ (i.e. if I go back to Italy). No contract, no installation/activation fee. Just stick it in your computer and you’re good to go!
In Ireland, I bought my mother a mobile hotspot for €20. It is the size of an iTouch, and the maximum usage fee is €20 ($27) per month. She can pop this thing in her pocket and bring it back and forth between both residences and four different devices can run off of it. I bought a month’s worth of usage as I knew I would be here at least 3 weeks, but in the future if someone comes to visit her they can buy as little as a day, or they can buy a week, etc., just as much as they need. Plus, as this device is so small, you can pop it in your pocket and head off to town and have your iphone on wifi and be connected. No contract, no activation fee, no installation fee, no roaming. Just plug it into an outlet and you are connected at home! Or detach it from the charger, slip it in your pocket, and head away somewhere!