Dear FMCA Computer Geeks:
We are new to long-term motor coach trips and are looking for the most reliable and secure way to obtain 24/7 Internet service via my laptop computer from anywhere in the U.S. and Canada — high speed. What do you suggest?
Your advice to others has been helpful to me, too!
Thanks for submitting a question to the Geeks on FMCA.com. And, congratulations on taking long-term coach trips. It’s the best way to travel.
You ask for “the most reliable and secure way to obtain 24/7 Internet service.” You didn't mention price. If price is not an issue, then the Motosat Datastorm satellite Internet platform is clearly the answer to your question. The computer-controlled dish mounts on the roof of your motorhome and automatically obtains an Internet connection with the push of a button. That Internet connection can then be connected to a wireless router, and your coach becomes a Wi-Fi hotspot that several people can connect to with their laptops.
The cost? Approximately $5,000 to $6,000 to purchase and install the dish and other equipment, and $80 per month for the service. It will work anywhere in North America — you will need to recommission it (reprogram) to different satellites when you go too far north or south.
The other two ways to connect are cellular and Wi-Fi.
Cellular is quickly becoming the most popular. A data card from Verizon or other cellular providers costs roughly $100. You pay about $60 per month and can get online almost anywhere you travel. But Canada and Mexico are problems — you're charged major roaming fees -- if there is service at all.
Wi-Fi is fabulous. It can be the best speed. It's available at most RV parks everywhere. It's reasonably priced and often free. The problem is that it's not dependable. Some parks are good, some aren't. You can even have good and bad experiences in the same park. It’s a shared system and there are so many factors that go into it.
If you decide on the cellular/data card connection, you could also use campground Wi-Fi spots, as needed. Just remember that you will pay the $60 cellular service charge even if you don’t use the service much.
If you absolutely, positively must have the Internet 24/7, then you need all three ways to connect. We know plenty of business people in RVs who use the Verizon data card most of the time, and have the Datastorm dish on their roof for use when the cell signal is slow or absent. And everyone uses Wi-Fi. When it's available and good, it's the best.
As for security, it's up to you to keep your computer clean, up-to-date and protected, regardless of the method of connecting to the Internet.
— Jim and Chris
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