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Exploring Satellite Internet

I have mentioned that Gwen and I are exploring satellite Internet for our recreational vehicle. Why? The Internet has become a major part of our lives just as physical activity has. We enjoy bicycling, hiking, kayaking, traveling with our RV, scrapbooking, pets and visiting with family. The Internet is as much a part of our lives. Since high school, I have been interested in business and currently teach business courses for our local community college. You may have noticed the few sponsors we have for this Web site. You see them in the "Google Ads" along the edge of the pages and in the display advertising that may appear on many of the pages. (Thank you for visiting and buying from our sponsors.) This is our subtle way of being "in business" and paying our own way as we travel. This all means that we must stay connected to the Internet without having to depend upon RV parks and WIFI locations. Satellite Internet will become the answer to our need to always be connected. We are exploring all the possibilities now and you can benefit from what we have discovered so far.
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This page will detail what I have learned by the end of July, 2005. As technology goes, I expect satellite Internet to change almost daily. The good news is that it is available today and the prices are coming down. You have two basic choices of dishes, an automatic pointing dish mounted to the roof of your coach or a tripod dish which is manually pointed by the user. There Help from MaliaMiles
  Automatic dish are advantages or disadvantage to each system. Recently we visited with Malia (you will find her on our Internet friends page) to learn more about a tripod system. We had already seen the automatic system when

we found George.

First let's talk about advantages to both systems: the automatic system is just that, automatic. George simply turned on his computer and clicked a button. In about 3 minutes he was connected to a satellite. When he put it away, it took 3 minutes

Tripod system
  Rear of tripod dish, note method to tilt the dish and was automatic. George never had to touch any part of the dish (it's on the roof of his coach) and did not have to worry about getting the best connection, that was automatic and reset if he releveled his coach. This means George can stop at a rest area and connect virually immediately with

no hassle. This dish is ideal for someone who moves often (like George).

The tripod dish is less than half the cost of the automatic dish (about $1,500 - $2,000). It can be set at a distance from the coach, it's not on the roof. This means you can park under the trees but have your dish away from the coach with a view of the sourthern sky. It will take about 10 - 15 minutes for a practiced veteran to set up and connect to a satellite. This system is best for

Line A Site satellite dish aiming aid

someone who stays in one place for a longer time. That's about it for advantages.

Now disadvantages: for the automatic dish, price, it's about $5,000+ just for the equipment and installation.

Modem and Wireless G access The dish is mounted to the roof so you must park only where you have a clear view of the southern sky. That would eliminate where we are currently parked with - Toys, Treats and Gifts for your pet   our fifth wheel and would eliminate about 90% of the 300+ spaces at this resort. For the tripod dish: having to store, unpack, and manually aim is the huge disadvantage. It is not as easy to aim as a TV dish. Meters must be used to adjust the dish on three axis. The tripod must be of high quality and able to OPI Meter
  securely support about 30 lbs. and survive wind storms. The dish must be 5+ feet above the ground. The initial installation must be done by a "certified installer". Moving the dish from the original installation is not approved by Direcway but they currently do not enforce their own rules about moving the dish.
  Tripod leg stuck into the ground Most of the tripod users I've met in person or by email claim to be able to setup and take down their dishes within 15 minutes after practice but I doubt that most of us would do that at a rest stop. I think a person would have to be more concerned about theft than those with a dish permanently mounted to a coach roof although a thief would not be able to use the dish (but they don't

know that until after they have taken the dish).

As I said above, I see the automatic dish for someone who moves often while the tripod dish is for someone who stays in place longer. Gwen and I fit the second category. I also hate to be limited to parking only where there is a clear view of the southern sky especially during the summer. Note that I have not compared the monthly fee for the Internet service provider after the purchase of the equipment. I see that as being virtually identical although I've read that the automatic user is forced into the

Disks used for standing the tripod in sand

professional account which is $100 per month rather than the $60 per month account for the smaller user. Both these accounts have daily tranfer limits called the "Fair Access Policy" and if those are exceeded your system is reduced to the speed of dialup but will recover quickly if you stop downloading. I've not read of anyone complaining about being shut down often. I guess if that happens you will have to justify jumping to the next higher level.

Here are two absolutes if you are considering satellite Internet: 1) subscribe to the DataStorm users forum (we are number 2476 on their map) and 2) subscribe to the Yahoo group, RVInternetbySatellite. Follow the discussion on these two groups to learn more before you buy. I always advise my students to "lerk before leaping" when joining a discussion group. That means, follow the discussion before you begin asking questions. Your questions have probably been answered hundreds of times. Both these groups have files you can download and read for additional information.

Finally there are two satellite Internet service providers to explore, Direcway and Starband. However, before pulling out your credit card and ordering from either of these providers, I suggest you talk with an installer. You will find a list of installers as one of the files in the RVInternetbySatellite group.

I plan to continue with my research and will post updates. The final update will be the story of installing the system and telling of the provider who I finally chose to purchase the system from. A buyer is completely dependent upon the follow-up service of a reputable provider so this installer should be chosen very carefully. Malia has highly recommended her provider.

September, 2005 ... we did it ...bought our own satellite Internet. See the story by clicking here.
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