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Beyond the Hotspot: Mobile Internet Alternatives

For those of us that RV regularly, staying connected to the internet is often a necessity. Whether you’re working on the road, homeschooling children, or just want to surf the internet – having access to reliable internet is important.

And you’re probably already familiar with the most common ways people stay connected: cellular, public Wi-Fi, and satellite.

But those aren’t necessarily the only ways to get online while enjoying life on the road. And there may be times when none of those options are available or you just simply don’t travel with them all.

If you are willing to get a little creative and think outside the box, you may have some other options that can help you out in a pinch.

Coworking Locations

Many full-time RVers have dedicated office setups in their RVs. But an RV office in the middle of the living room isn’t always quiet, and your internet connection might not always be the best.

Coworking spaces are locations setup for remote workers to use. They provide perks like dedicated work areas, conference rooms, and most importantly – speedy internet. These can be an ideal option for a mobile worker to set up an office base camp.

Coworking locations are located all over the country, particularly in larger cities. They may be locally owned or part of a larger network. Some are pay-as-you-go – renting a space by the hour or day, or you can also find monthly and annual memberships that give you unlimited access.

Hardwired Internet

Hardwired internet, like the cable or DSL you might have in a sticks and bricks home, can be blazing fast and reliable. And as we all know, wireless mobile connections can often be finicky, depending on your location.

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Despite RVs being mobile, there are some opportunities to get a hard-wired fix.

Some higher end RV parks, or ones that cater to long-term residents, might offer hardwired internet already installed at each site. The service might be included with your nightly rate, or you might have to pay a-la-carte.

In some residential parks, you may even have to contact the provider yourself to get hooked up. Even if you do have to sign up for the service yourself, the costs to get started can be very reasonable, and without long term commitments.

Also, if you’re driveway camping at a friend or family’s house, you might also be able to borrow their high-speed internet by actually running a cable out to your RV, rather than just using their Wi-Fi.

Library Hotspot Programs

Libraries often provide a free internet connection to use onsite. But did you know that many libraries have programs where you can check out a mobile hotspot device, just as you would check out a book?

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The mobile hotspot will come with a data plan already running on it, and you can use the hotspot and any data on it during the time you’ve checked it out.

Just as with checking out a book, you’ll need to have a local library card. If you’re traveling this may be more difficult. Some libraries may let you use a local forwarding address, or maybe you’re visiting friends that can check one out for you.

Library hotspot lending services aren’t a good long-term solution but could be very helpful if you just need some extra data to tide you over if you’ve used up the data allotments on your own plans, or if you don’t have a strong signal with the provider that your plan is on.

WISP Providers

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In many rural areas that aren’t serviced by cable or DSL, you may be able to find a WISP – or Wireless Internet Service Provider.

A WISP taps into an internet connection and then distributes it to their subscribers over wireless signals transmitted from nearby high points, such as buildings, or even the roofs of homes.

The catch with using a WISP is that it will require professional installation for the receiver, and there are costs associated. It won’t make sense for a short-term stay, but if you’re in a remote area and you’re planning to be there for an extended period of time, a WISP might work for you.

As WISPS tend to be very local, you might look for them advertised in community laundromats, bulletin boards or newspapers.

Hand-held Satellite Communication Devices

If your communication needs are basic, hand-held satellite communicators can help you out when you’re in an area with no cellular or Wi-Fi service.

Satellite communicators, such as the Garmin inReach Mini or Zoleo, can provide you with the ability to communicate almost anywhere. They can be useful for basic communication needs like safety information, trip coordination, weather, and basic texting.

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You’ll essentially be limited to communicating by nothing more than text messaging, which may seem incredibly limiting when you’re used to a faster connection. But those text messages can be crucial for conveying important information, and providing needed communications, when there are limited other options.

And more and more smartphone manufacturers and cellular carriers are finding ways to partner with satellite operators to provide basic satellite messaging right on your phone in places without cellular access.

Ham Radio

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With the right equipment, licensed ham radio operators can usually get connected from just about anywhere on Earth.

The big limitation is that amateur radio is strictly for amateur use. So you won’t be able to use it for checking work email, or even online banking. And of course, you’ll need to be set up with the proper equipment, which may be costly and bulky. But if you’re already set up to use ham radio, you can communicate from just about anywhere.

If you want to get involved with amateur radio, the place to start is the ARRL – the National Association for Amateur Radio.

Summary

If you don’t have a usable cellular, Wi-Fi, or satellite connection to help you communicate, you may be able to use some of these “outside the box” ideas. A little creativity and a little flexibility may be needed, but with so many options available, there should be a solution or idea to help everyone stay connected when they need to be.

For more ideas and details, follow up with our Thinking Outside the Box guide.

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Author

Jen Nealy

Jen and her husband Deas were full-time RVers for 5 years, and now they part-time travel in their van from their home base in Asheville NC with their dog Finn. Jen works part-time for the Mobile Internet Resource Center.

2 Responses

  1. We are planning on traveling from our base in Tucson for an 8-12 week long round trip to the upper Midwest this summer. What is an adequate internet solution for us?

    1. Hello Michael! That is a tough question to answer because we don’t know your internet needs. It is ultimately up to you, and the ideas in this article are helpful when making your choice. We think this article will also be helpful: https://escapees.com/best-rv-internet-options/ Plus, we have other mobile internet topics on our blog that may help, too. Good luck and happy travels!

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