The Internet Situation

When Mike and I planned (to the best of our abilities) for the things that we thought would be the most difficult aspects of living in the bus we were mainly anticipating an issue with electricity. We had originally planned to go with solar straight out the gate until we priced it out. So we opted to do a propane water heater (has yet to be purchased or installed) and stove (ended up switching to an electric cooktop) to compensate for the lack of electricity or smaller quantity coming in from the solar. Well, electricity has not been an issue at all.

What has been a surprisingly big and annoying issue is the internet.

Right now, we have WiFi at the campground we are staying at. But it’s kind of terrible and we can’t pick it up at all inside the bus. I’ve read that Airstreams have some issues with blocking WiFi signals and I suspect that the metal shell of the bus is hindering our ability to get any of that sweet, sweet WiFi inside. We can sit at our picnic table and usually get the WiFi just fine (peak times, especially on the weekends are still problematic) but nothing inside.

This is, of course, a problem. There are loads of ants, picnic tables are quite uncomfortable to sit on for any length of time, forget going outside with a laptop if it’s raining, and the Texas sun is a force to be reckoned with.

We’ve tried a WiFi antenna (put on top of the bus and wired in through the hatch) connected to a WiFi repeater. Totally failed. We think the issue with that is that the campgrounds WiFi requires periodic signing in and the repeater can’t sign in to the WiFi network. All of the advice and tips we found online didn’t work or we had the work kind of repeater. Not sure yet. We will try another one but we are not terribly hopeful.

We’ve bought a hotspot from Verizon. It works out to roughly $10 per gig of data. We burn through data at an amazing rate. I feel like with a regular home internet plan you never really realize how much data things take. Those 20 minute makeup tutorials (for looks I never do) or product reviews (for things I won’t buy) take an amazing amount of data. To give a recent and financially painful example. We got 10 gigs (so $100) and ate through it in 2 days without even realizing it. 2 days! We didn’t even do the things we normally do-long YouTube videos, games, any lengthy internet searches at all. What we did do, is fall asleep with the hot spot still running and some background programs ran their updates. We are normally very good about turning the hot spot when our immediate internet needs have been met but not this time.

We did look into the satellite internet that so many RVs have and, wow!, is that surprisingly expensive. Like anywhere from $700-$6000 for equipment set up plus a monthly fee of $60 and up. Um, how about no.

Right now we are looking into different phone plans that may be a more cost effective way to get internet access. We could tether from the devices and that might work if we can an unlimited data plan that’s not obscenely expensive or one of those where you really only get 5 gigs before they throttle the speed down to mostly unusable. We’ve noticed that a lot of full-time RVers have a grandfathered in, truely unlimited data plan from Verizon an that’s not available anymore…so that sucks for us.

We’ve gotten suggestions to hit up coffee shops for their WiFi (actually, I’m typing this out at a laundromat that offers free WiFi. 2 birds with 1 stone and all that) which we can do in small doses. Mike goes to his office on campus to get work done and I can’t leave for huge blocks of time because we dislike leaving Finn by himself for long periods of time. Once the heat finally eases up here it’ll be easier to leave him but while it’s still getting into the 90s I’d prefer to be in the bus to monitor the temperature and his water and be able to just take off with him if it’s unbearable.

So there we have it. The single largest annoyance of living full time on the bus. Still trouble shooting the issue so hopefully we figure out something workable soon.

3 Comments

  1. Now that Verizon has the unlimited plan for $45/line have you switched to this yet? Give us an update please if you do switch to this on the speed and if there are any hoops to jump through/strings attached/etc.

  2. Could you tell me what providers offer the satellite WiFi? The info that I find for Dish and Direct Tv on thier websites says that thier service will not work with an RV.
    I would use this only when nothing else was available, but, I can sse it being a lifesaver when it IS all that is available. Lol!

    • Alex, There aren’t too many options out there for satellite internet. HughesNet was an early pioneer and they are probably the best bet at seeing a renewed service for Rv-ers and other people on the road, but they have moved out of the market. In their website FAQ they point to a partnered business http://www.mobilsat.com which provides satellite internet through a HughesNet network, but at a very steep price. You can also look at http://www.rvdatasat.com which uses the mobilsat equipment but is directly marketing to RV owners (and has a more useful site). Basically, you are looking at $5,000-$7,000 in equipment and anywhere between $100-$400 per month in service charges depending one which package you choose. After paying all that, you connection will be slower than a 2G connection and have a much lower data cap than any cell phone plan out there. So it just doesn’t seem to be worth it, unless you have a particular need for such a system and the cash to cater to that need. Personally, I could not recommend any such system until the equipment comes down to around $500 and still then the internet service quality would need to be at least somewhat competitive with wireless phone providers.

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