Last Changed 12/20/2010
Internet access is a major factor in the Full-Time Life Style for us.
We stay connected to friends and family via email. We track events
of the world. Mark gets his daily fix for comics through web
services. We manage our finances on line. Mark does some computer
support via the internet. We shop on the Internet. We maintain
this and other websites.
Here are many of the Internet activities we do:
Web site browsing
Web site updates
We use three PCs in Tige, two laptops and a desktop that acts like a
server. Our printer is LAN connected. We use a
wireless router to connect the three PCs and printer together in a local
There are several options to a Full-Timer to connect to the Internet
- Public Library
- Telephone Dial-up
- Air-Card Wireless
- Satellite Internet
Some RVers actually rely on Public Library access to the Internet. Rationally
this would be pretty much be limited to accessing e-mail. The limitations of
access hours and numerous other limitations makes using the Public Library not a
consideration for us.
While dialup is still an option, it is really not a viable options for
Internet connection the way we use the Internet. The biggest
drawback is the usual lack of a telephone connect at the RV site.
This would mean that we would have to take one of our laptops to the
campground office where there is usually a telephone connection
available. Actually dial-up connections in the office are becoming rare.
The other drawback is connection speed. The maximum of 53Kbps is just to slow
for the way we use the Internet. Hardly anything on the Internet is not graphical.
And no printer.
In some cases, cellphones can be connected to a laptop and be used like a dial-up modem.
Wi-Fi is the most prevalent Internet connection used by Full-Timers.
The PC connects to the park Wi-Fi by a card that is inserted into the PC
or is built-in. The trend is for RV parks that offer Wi-Fi, offer
it for free. Some RV parks still charge for park Wi-Fi.
Wi-Fi connections can be found in places like McDonalds, Starbucks,
Flying J, and state rest stops. Again some are free, some have a
The park connection to the Internet, DSL, Cable or satellite, is not
free nor is the Wi-Fi equipment. The RV parks have to absorb the cost if
they offer it for free by embedding the cost into the daily rates.
However, the RV parks are in competitive situations and people look at
daily rates before they ask about Wi-Fi meaning the park has to be very
careful on how much of the Wi-Fi cost they attempt to recover. So
what does that mean to you? It is a factor on how much equipment
the park invests into Wi-Fi and equipment translates into Wi-Fi
Just because park Wi-Fi is available doesn't mean that it is usable. Free Wi-Fi can
be questionable. Even paid for Wi-Fi, like Tengo, can be useless.
Things that can make park Wi-Fi useless can be things like; too many users for the
park Internet connection, poor quality equipment resulting in service outages,
To be able to use free park Wi-Fi whenever it is available, we invested
in equipment that gives us more range to the park Wi-Fi and well as
retaining our local LAN. We cover this in detail in
During our 2010 tour of the West, we maintained a record of park Wi-Fi usage.
We had park Wi-Fi available for 70% of the nights. However, not all park Wi-Fi
is usable. We could use the park Wi-Fi 58% of the nights.
Air-Card wireless is a growing method of connecting to the Internet.
An Air-Card is basically the guts of a cellphone mounted in a case that
either plugs into your laptop or connects via a USB able. The
Air-Card establishes a connect to your cellular carrier. It is a
wireless dialup, but unlike telephone dialup, its speed is much faster
when connected to the latest cellular networks. Speeds of 1Mbps
and higher are possible. This is like being connected to DSL or Cable Modem.
There are times we wish we had an Air-Card to connect to the Internet
while we are moving down the road. This is a big advantage of
An Air-Card can be connected to a wireless router. Then the
Air-Card connection to the Internet can be shared by multiple PCs.
Air-Card speed can be as slow as regular telephone if the cellular
network is not the latest level. To use that would be
Air-cards are subject to poor coverage in the sparsely populated western
states as depicted in Air-Card Coverage.. Air-Cards usually have a bit more range that cellphones
because they have a better power source, the PC. However not that
much more. We were in Dry Creek LA, just 30 miles north of Lake Charles
and had no cell coverage. Likewise, in Virgin UT, next to Zion
National Park, we had no cell coverage.
The equipment cost can be anywhere from free with an extended contract
to $150-$200 for an Air-Card. The monthly service runs about $60
for 5GB of Internet traffic.
That 5GB limit is the amount of data received from and sent to the
Internet. For most people, that is more than enough. But
beware of going over the 5GB limit, it can be very expensive.
The 5GB limit is a killer for us. We had a month, an extreme
month, where we refreshed the websites and had several software updates.
Our total traffic that month exceed 14GB. That month would have
cost us almost $5000 in cellphones fees at that time. That is not in our
Since the 14GB month, the fees for going over the limit have been reduced by halve.
But recently Mark needed to rebuild his laptop and incurred another 14.5GB month, still
a budget breaker.
There are 10 GB plans available now which is closer to our needs.
And it looks like some of the plans are not as regressive for
running over the data allotment.
Satellite Internet is available virtually anywhere because the satellites are 22,500
miles out in space and basically visible from anywhere in the Continental United States.
The curvature of the Earth makes places like Alaska and Mexico a little harder to see a
Because the focusing of the satellite dish is critical, using satellite
Internet going down the road is not possible at this time.
HughesNet, the most prevalent satellite Internet provided sells
subscription packages with different maximum available data transfer speeds.
With the different speed packages come different download traffic
allowances. HughesNet only counts download traffic as that is the
biggest amount of data usually moved by a user.
For our package, we are allowed 475MB per rolling 24 hour period (a possible
14GB a month) of download traffic. Upload data traffic
That usually handles all the things we want to do. HughesNet doesn't charge for going over
the limit, they penalize you by slowing you down (but not stopping) to a
speed about equal to dialup. Being slowed down is painful but not
as expensive as the Air-Card.
Satellite Internet has a higher up front cost that the other options.
Figure on $1500-$2000 for a manual tripod setup or $5000 for an
automatic aligning roof mount system.
For access everywhere and an adequate data limit, we originally choose satellite
Internet from HughesNet. We purchased our tripod equipment from
We describe satellite Internet more, our equipment and setup at
During our 2010 tour of the West, we counted how much we used park Wi-Fi compared to
satellite Internet and found we used park Wi-Fi an average of 58% of the nights and
HughesNet for the other 42%. Couple the availability of park Wi-Fi and the
availability of a 10GB/month air-card data plan, we felt we could survive with an
air-card system which we implemented in December 2010.
We are still a little concerned about staying within the data allocation of the air-card
plan. The average of 58% of the nights camouflages the two months where we only used
the HughesNet Internet. On air-card, those months would have required monitoring
our usage to prevent overrun.
We are retaining our HughesNet equipment as a backup plan in case we find ourselves exceeding
the air-card data plan too often.