Dear FMCA Computer Geeks:
Hi. We are new-bees and are gearing up for full-timing RVing. We need a wireless service that will do our banking and pay our bills. We also would like to have the the ability to watch Netflix. We need to keep the monthly cost as low as possible but still get all of the above. I was hoping that you could recommend a service within the $80 range. Thanks.
Ron and Paula Starkweather
Ron and Paula,
Good to hear from you. Congratulations on becoming full-timers!
We got a kick out of the wording of your question. We, too, would like a service that would pay our bills and do our banking.
Seriously, all wireless technologies have limits. We have used all three: cellular, satellite, and Wi-Fi.
Banking and other legitimate money or credit transaction Web sites have built-in security, so you are safe as long as your computer is clean, up-to-date, and you are on secure Web sites. Look in the address bar for http:// and the lock icon.
A wireless cellular data connection will cost about $60/month. If you go with a two-year contract, the cost of the adapter is often free. We generally recommend Verizon because they have the best overall coverage in the United States. Your choice of carrier may be influenced by where you like to travel. Most plans will limit you to 5 gigabytes per month. A single full-length feature film from Netflix is 2 to 3 GB. If you go over the limit, you will be charged per megabyte. That can add up fast.
Satellite Internet will cost about $80 permonth and the initial investment in equipment is pretty steep. A new automatic system will cost over $5,000, installed. A new portable or manual tripod system will be more than $1,000 and cost $60 per month. Service is limited to less than 400 megabytes of data in a rolling 24-hour period. Go over that, and your speed will be throttled back drastically. That is called FAP, or Fair Access Policy. There is a FAP-free time overnight to allow for large downloads.
Wi-Fi is available in many locations and is often free. No contracts or (usually) download limits. Speed and reliability are the main issues here. Your proximity and orientation to the Access Point is very important. Wi-Fi was never designed to go very far. External adapters can be purchased for better connectivity. If the Wi-Fi hotspot is connected to the Internet with a fast connection, you will have good speeds.
Each hotspot is unique, and some require passwords. Because it is a shared connection, the number of users on at any one time will affect your Internet experience. Likewise, the types of activity will affect you. Most hotspots are fine for casual browsing and e-mail. High bandwidth activities such as streaming movies or VOIP phone calls will slow everyone down.