So, you want to take it with you?

Internet and satellite-TV portability made easy!

By Cliff Maurand

One of the key questions I've run across lately in the technology sections on several Camping and RV related sites, has to do with having internet connections or Satellite TV with you. In several cases, users want both. Ask this question a few years ago, and you'd run into some major stumbling blocks. However, as technology has improved over the last few years, so has the ability to stay connected to the outside world, even when you're out in the boondocks.

We're happy to report that you can connect to the Internet or receive Satellite TV from just just about anywhere these days. Moreover, there are a couple of venues out there that will provide both at the same time, but those are still very expensive options. We'll touch on those, but our focus today will be on more mainstream devices, which are now affordable to just about everybody.

Since you're here reading this, then it's obvious you are have an Internet connection. One of the most prominent questions out there is, "What is the best way to connect at the campground?" There are actually several answers to this question, each with totally seperate solutions. Just a few short years ago, about the only way to do this was to carry you're laptop to what some Campgrounds called a modem port somewhere at their facility, usually the main office or a laundry room. There you would find a desk, and a single phone line. Each visitor could plug into the phone line, and use their own ISP Dial-up service and connect. This has some big drawbacks though, as there are usually only one phone line, and it was slow. And you generally were not the only one that wanted to use it either, sometimes a line would form. Most places that had a lot of users may have added extra phone lines, others simply created rules limiting use to a very short period of time, long enough to check email and then get off so the next person could use the phone line. One KOA out in the Virginia Blue Ridge area shared their modem line with the outside payphone, so if someone outside decided to try and make a call, it would knock you off-line the moment they picked that pay phone up off the receiver hook. Not the best route to go here, but it does work.

Cell Phones for connectivity...
The latest and possibly the most popular method these days, is to use a Cell Phone connection to the Internet. For this, you generally need a specific service or plan, and some special connection items. While there are companies out there that make specialty equippment that will allow most phones to connect to the laptop, not all Cell providers have plans to allow for this, others don't care, while several have specific plans just for this purpose. We'll touch on a few of the more popular ones here, but trust me, I'm NOT endorsing any of them (unless they'd like to pay me!!).

Three Cell companies quickly come to mind when we're talking about internet connections. Those three are Verizon, T-Mobile, and Alltel. While there are others, these three seem to cater more to the internet customers than the others do. All three have distinct internet plans, and they also offer the use of Air Cards. Those of you not familar with air cards, they are much like a WiFi card or a home wireless ethernet card that plugs into the expansion port of the laptop. The Air Cards made by Sierra operate on cellular technology, have their own external antenna, and can also be used with a headset (and your computer) and used as a phone too. But their primary use has been designed for use in the laptop for internet browsing.

There are different models, and they have significantly different speeds. Additionally, most of these companys also have cell phones that coupled with a connection kit, can plug into the USB port of any computer and used as a modem. Again, some are faster than others, ranging in speed from 14.4k to something close to broadband speeds.

Satellite Television at the campground...
For those of you just wishing you could take along some television programing with you, this too is currently an accepted practice. Whether you subscribe to Direct TV or Dish Network, both can be utilized in a mobil
enviroment. Now keep in mind you must subscribe for the service if you're not already one of their customers, and cost can be as low as $30 per month. However, most people cashing in on this opportunity, are usually home subscribers. For them, it cost relatively nothing extra, since they already have the service and the equipment. About the only thing they really need to come up with, is an extra dish to use with the camper, and they are widely available for many different sources. From that point it's a matter of grabbing one of the receivers (a unit much like a cable box) and taking it with them.

This is great if you're going to be gone for quite a while, and wish to continue to receive quality television programing. Additionally, since most of these customers are already paying for the service, then it just makes sense to take it along. While the list of campgrounds offering Cable TV hook-up's has grown considerably in the last couple of years, it's a fact that most campgrounds still do not offer it.

Satellite as internet connection
While Cell phones are the affordable way to connect to the internet, there is a growing technology in two way satellite. There are a couple of companies out there right now that offer this service on a mobil platform. Direct TV also has a home version of this called Direct Way, but because of technical issues aiming transmitting satellite dishs this particular system is not available for use in a mobil enviroment. That's not so say that some haven't done this anyway, in fact quite a few have. There is a legal requirement to be certified to set these up, and some people have gone the length to get this certification, others have merely tip-toed around the regulations and taken their systems mobil anyway. The Data Storm pictured here is an automatic dish, set's iteself up, aims itself, and is partnered with Direct Way, but initial install and equipment cost are up in the thousands of dollars.

These are considered broadband connections too, though they may pale in comparison to your home Cable or DSL modem services. They do outshine the current cellular technology though, as they provide better speed, and can be used anywhere there is open sky to the south. Cell technology is and will continue to be limited to areas where cell connectivity is available. The Satellite system will work even in the most remote locations.

The satellite not only provides a great internet connection, it can also double for use in TV viewing as well. So that also means you can have all your favorite cable channels even in the remotest locations too!

The primary difference here is price! The system and it's installation make this system a rich man's toy at best. I suppose in time, the price of these will come down, they've already begun to drop a little. With more time, and more competition they too may become affordable to everyone.

For additional information on connecting to the internet via different cell phone companies, CLICK HERE

For detailed instructions on how to rig up a home satellite system at the campground, CLICK HERE

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