Dear FMCA Computer Geeks:
What is the best possible combination of cable-TV and Internet service, for the best price, for our RV? We do not know if we have a pre-wired setup.
Donna and Ken Howard
It depends on many personal choices. Considerations include how you expect to travel, what kind of TV shows you like to watch, how often you need to be connected to the Internet, and how much money you can spend.
Is your RV a big diesel pusher or a small travel trailer?
Everyone is different. We don't care that much about TV, and get by fine with broadcast stations and occasional cable TV at RV parks. We know others who could not live without 100 satellite channels and premium HD movies, sports, etc.
To run our business, we require a good Internet connection that is always available. Some folks can get by with connecting a few times a week when it is convenient, while others don't care a bit and everything in between.
If you go with satellite TV systems, you want to choose between automatic or manual dish pointing. HD or Standard Definition? DirecTV or Dish? Rooftop mount or tripod? If you have a rooftop mount and like to park under trees, you will have problems. There are automatic pointing portable dishes. Oh, and don't forget receiver options like Tivo.
I can offer some information for consideration.
There are three ways to connect to the Internet wirelessly: Cellular, Wi-Fi, and satellite.
Satellite is the most expensive and the only technology that works when you are away from cellular signal and Wi-Fi hotspots. Again, you have a choice of automatic or manual pointing. Approximate cost: $80/month for service after installation.
Cellular data is getting better all the time. Speeds and availability vary widely. Verizon has good overall coverage. You will typically get an Internet connection by using a smartphone or data card, often connected with a USB cable. There are devices that take that cellular data and make a hot spot, allowing multiple computers to connect. Cellular is the only technology that allws you to be connected while traveling down the road. Approximate cost: $60/month is normal for data cards and usually is limited to 5GB per month.
Wi-Fi is "hotspot" technology. It was designed for small office/home office applications. Wi-Fi adapters are built-in to all laptop computers today, but they are not all the same. Some are better than others. There are also external adapters to extend your distance and enhance your speed.
Public Wi-Fi hotspots typically share a single Internet connection. Other users on the network will limit your available bandwidth.
RV park installations run the gamut from professionally installed, multiple-access-point high-bandwidth connections to do-it-yourself residential-type installs. Your experience will absolutely vary from place to place. Prices, too, vary widely from completely free to more than $20/day. You don't always get what you pay for, either.