What Internet Service Is Best for RVers?

Redneck RV Satellite InternetOne of the most common questions asked by new full-time RVers—or those planning to hit the road—is, “What is the best mobile broadband internet service?

Oftentimes it is phrased, “What do you do for wifi on the road?” Or, “How do y’all get internet everywhere?

My immediate answer is usually, “That depends!

I’m not being a smart ass here. It’s true. The best mobile internet access solution for you, totally depends on your usage needs. What may work best for getting online by one full-timer, may be overkill for another RVer, or totally worthless to many more.

Top 10 Questions to Ask Before Choosing the Best Mobile ISP

If you are considering the nomadic lifestyle, and want to get online anywhere, ask yourself some serious questions to help determine the best mobile Internet Service Provider to meet your needs.

  1. Hammock TimeWhat is your primary reason for getting online?
  2. How many hours a day do you need to be connected?
  3. Are you just browsing websites and liking stuff on the Faceborg?
  4. Do you stream lots of Youtube videos and/or watch Netflix?
  5. Does your job life depend on being online anywhere, all the time?
  6. What kind of download speeds do you need? What about uploads?
  7. How technical are you when it comes to hardware/software installation, configuration and use?
  8. Are you always plugged in somewhere near a cellular network, or do you prefer boondocking way off the grid?
  9. How patient are you?
  10. What’s your budget?

Mobile Internet Handbook for RVersI’m not going to help you determine which service is best based on your answers. There are many much more helpful resources to help you choose:

NOTE: I will, however, share what I believe to be the single best answer to any question about the best mobile internet solution for location independent entrepreneurs and other full-time RVers like ourselves who rely on consistent and reliable internet access to support the nomadic lifestyle. In one word…

Redundancy.

No joke. I’m serious here too. Having redundant methods of internet access is the only suitable solution for those who must be online all day, every day, no matter where you are. I’ll share what services and devices we use for redundant mobile internet, then I’ll explain why this is so important.

mifi mobile broadband hotspots

Mobile Broadband Hotspot

iphone personal hotspot spot settingsWe have two different methods we can use to access the internet via wireless broadband service. One is our Verizon MiFi mobile hotspot and the other is the Personal Hotspot feature on our iPhone.

I would not call having both of these devices “double redundancy” since they both rely upon the same wireless service, the performance of which may vary greatly depending on your location, the number of nearby users online, or the reliability of the network itself—but more about that later.

Wireless broadband data plans have monthly bandwidth limitations and may require lengthy contracts.

RV Satellite Inernet and Solar Power

Satellite Internet

RF Mogul D3 Satellite Dish Controller SoftwareWe love our RV Satellite Internet system. And we hate it. We use a roof-mounted MotoSat F2 satellite dish with a D3 controller running RF Mogul software, and HughesNet Internet service.

Without this system, we would not be able to get online at all in many of our favorite locations around the country that have no wireless phone or data service. With it, we can get online anywhere, almost. It does require a clear view of the southern sky, a certain amount of patience, and technical understanding and troubleshooting skills when connectivity problems occur.

Most satellite internet plans have daily bandwidth limitations and expenses for hardware and monthly plans may be costly.

Slab City Internet Cafe Public Wifi

Public WiFi

We rarely rely on RV park Wifi because, well, it usually isn’t that reliable. Most owners simply don’t invest in the hardware and internet service required to adequately serve the number of users in their parks. If they do, they may throttle connection speeds, or charge additional fees to use it.

Sometimes, however, if we do find a decent WiFi network, we will use it to catch up on software updates or other “important” downloads. At times, I have needed to do some serious uploading of files for website work or client projects, when we have gone out of our way to find public libraries which often have the fastest connections.

Almost always, however, we are happy using our satellite connection or Verizon wireless broadband service. Almost…

Why Redundant Internet Access Is Important

I alluded earlier to relying upon the reliability of whatever network you’re using for an internet connection. Network routing is a complicated big money business, and as end users we expect it to just work. But it does not always do that. With satellite internet, weather conditions at your location or at the NOC (Network Operations Center) on the other side of the country can cause serious service degradation.

Even with land line services—at an RV park or in a stick house for instance—internet connectivity for an entire neighborhood can be knocked out with one misplaced backhoe scoop, care accident, power outage, fire or other mishap.

And sometimes, the network backbone itself—regardless of your internet service type—can cause you major connection problems. In fact, it is serious data loss on Verizon networks that inspired me to write this rant.

Verizon Network Packet Loss MTR Results

Server mtr results showing packet loss on Verizon network backbone.

For weeks now, we have been unable to communicate with the server where we host multiple websites and nearly 1,000 blogs for our users—via our Verizon MiFi that is! We have no problem when using our HughesNet service, but many of our clients using Verizon are also having trouble. And VZW tech support fails to acknowledge, address or even understand that the problem. But I digress…

Suffice it to say, that without internet redundancy, I would not be able to publish this post.

Any questions?

Epilogue

It’s times like these I wish I had that double redundancy…

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3 Responses to “What Internet Service Is Best for RVers?”

  1. Nice writeup. When you’re on public Wi-Fi do you use a VPN client? What are your reasons, either way?

    My work keeps me on the road a lot, so I use VZW cellular service mostly, but public Wi-Fi is fairly common for me too. I’ve just never understood the whole VPN thing enough to make a decision on it, thus I don’t have it.

    How’s that for an early Sunday morning oxymoron? Yikes! I need another cup of coffee….quickly!

    • Thanks for the comment! Not sure about your VPN question though, since a Virtual Private Network is basically a pipeline to a specific network or server—such as a company’s internal network—regardless of what internet service you’re using to connect.

      We don’t have to connect to any VPN networks, but if we did, we would likely use our MiFi (presuming the Verizon Wireless network is functioning), and/or public Wifi. I know others who connect to VPNs who have told me that Satellite service will not suffice for VPN work due to the network latency.

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