“Honey, which of the cow’s stomachs should we buy tripe from for the dog?”
Hmm….that’s not something that I get asked everyday but it was this puzzling question that started me thinking about the importance of staying connected while on the road.
In our age of ‘just Google it’ knowledge, internet access has become pretty critical, particularly for former techies like Nina and myself. In some circles they have even started arguing that it is a basic human right (no comment!). For us it is pretty dang important, way above TV or phone, and up there with access to ESPN or the MLB network.
With that said, there are three basic choice when it comes to internet access while traveling in your RV; satellite, WiFi, and cellular broadband.
Satellite is the most reliable option. You can pretty much get a signal anywhere in North America as long as you have clear line of site to the sky. Trees and very stormy days are the only real issues. It usually involves getting a satellite dish installed on top of your RV plus subscribing to a monthly service. The main drawbacks are the upfront expense for the dish (about $5K installed) and some performance issues – the latency with satellite is not great and the upload speeds are bad (important for Skype). But if you want access from anywhere and everywhere this is the best option.
WiFi internet access would seem like the best option. You can pretty much find a WiFi hotspot anywhere. It is reliable and widely available for little to no cost. Many, dare I say most, RV parks have free or low cost WiFi. The drawbacks are 1) RV park WiFi is notoriously un-reliable and slow and 2) you won’t always be in an RV park. Barring driving around the locale your visiting cruising for free WiFi this solution is just not good enough.
Data service over cell-phone networks has come a long way in just a few years. It has gone from an esoteric glitchy technology into one that is fast, reliable, and affordable. Also, the deployment of the cell-phone networks themselves have improved a ton, to he point where you can get coverage almost anywhere (bar the extreme boondocking locations). Similar to your cell phone plans you get a modem for little to no cost, a subscription plan for $40-$60/month depending on the provider, with a 2 year contract. You can even get after market amplifiers and external antennas to improve the coverage and range even more. And the final accessory for this solution would be a router for inside your RV so the cell phone signal can be shared with multiple computers. Simple, not so expensive, and reliable.
We chose to go with Verizon as our data provider because I think they have the best network coverage by far. Its $60/month, vs $40 for the cheapest option, but I think its worth it. We have a U190 USB modem from Pantech that takes an external antenna if needed as well. To share the connection in the RV we have a Cradlepoint MBR1100 router. We back up our cell-phone solution with RV park WiFi when available, free, and reliable. So far, so good.
P.S. In case you’re wondering, tripe is the lining of one of the three cow’s stomachs and green-tripe includes some of the pre-digested contents. Not very good for humans but like heaven for dogs, and really healthy! And apparently, tripe from the 3rd stomach is the best.
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