RV Travel Report on
Internet Access from an RV

Updated on June 7, 1999


Alice and I use the Internet for email, doing financial transactions, surfing the Web for new information, and maintaining this website. It was easy when we had a home base and a fixed phone line; it has proved to be a challenge when traveling on the road in an RV.

The biggest problem of accessing the Internet when you are on the road is finding a phone for the length of time you need it. There are several different solutions to the problem of accessing the Internet. You may have to try several to find the one that works for you

Solution 1: Park at a modem-friendly RV park. I have found three types of modem-friendly parks:

A modem-loving campground is one that has an accessible phone line at your site's hookup post. I am talking about a line that is available immediately, not one you must arrange to have turned on by the telephone company. Expect to pay a small daily fee for use of the line.

Some parks have one or more modem-ready phone lines, phone lines that are set aside for Internet access use.

Some parks will allow you modem-share access using one of their business lines.

Solution 2: Find a business that will let you use their phone. You will need a local number or 800 number access to your email service for this kind of call.

Some stores like Mail Boxes Etc and Kinkos will let you use a phone. Kinkos wants to sell you computer time to go with the phone but you don't have to use it, and often their phone lines are ISDN lines which will not work with modems. If you bring your own laptop, some businesses will let you on for free, but if they do it is a nice gesture to purchase something from them to show your thanks.

Truck stops are another good source for a phone. There are often phones at the tables, and you can unplug the phone and plug in your modem. Hope you like truck stop food.

Solution 3: Find a public place that offers phone access. Again you will need a local number or 800 number access to your email service for this kind of call.

Libraries now-days have access to the Internet. They may let you use that access but often limit it to using their computers and to their library cardholders.

Airports have places where phone jacks are available for people with laptops.

Some hotels also have places in their lobby where phone jacks are available.

Solution 4: Connect your modem to your cell-phone.

A cell-phone connection to the Internet requires an analog cell-phone and a strong signal. This may limit your service area to localities within sight of a cell-phone tower.

If you have a dual-mode phone like the Nokia 6160 with AT&T One Rate, you cannot use the digital feature; you must roam to an analog service. If you have the Sprint PCS phone which is all digital, you are out of luck.

The cost of cell-phone calls usually limits this solution to email exchanges. Most cell-phone rate plans charge by the minute (getting so many free minutes a month for the base fee is still a by-the-minute rate). If you are roaming, it gets even worse with rates typically in the $.35 per minute in state, $.99 per minute out of state.

If you want to look into using a cell-phone for access in detail, you should read the FAQ paper by Steve Richfield. The solution he has found works in the San Francisco Bay Area and central California.

Solution 5: Connect through acoustic couplers and pay phones

Some people have had success accessing the Internet using acoustic couplers and pay phones, but they are generally useful only for sending and downloading short emails.

Konexx is the maker of the acoustic couplers that work. However, they may not tell you that the acoustic coupler does not work with all pay phones.

Though the acoustic couplers will run at speeds up to 19.2Kbaud, actual access speeds are usually 9600 baud or less, most often less. There are only a few ISPs that will even operate at this low a rate any longer. It is far too slow for accessing the Web.

Read the article by Mel Chaney for more details about this solution.


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If you have some other suggestions for Internet access,
drop us an email, we would like to hear about it.