On the Hunt for Wi-Fi

For 68 percent of the traveling public, Wi-Fi is rated as the most important on-site service an RV Park can provide, even surpassing clean bathrooms. But my experience from being on the road nine months a year and settling into a new park every few nights has shown that the definition of Wi-Fi service is as variable as the parks themselves.

Few parks provide excellent Wi-Fi service. A quick clue to that type of service can be found in the number of visible repeater towers a park has throughout its grounds. Proximity to one of these can improve one’s Wi-Fi experience in a park, but only if the originating signal is strong and fast enough to perform the desired function on the Web. Functionality seems to be as diverse between users as the number of devices one can utilize.

From the park owner’s point of view, his greatest headache is patrons streaming movies. In his judgment, providing enough service to facilitate checking email, browsing the web or posting an update to Facebook is reasonable enough to provide. Some owners are limiting free use to one hour, and then their system bumps you off. In many cases, you have to pay for additional time to continue your use of the park’s Wi-Fi. Some parks are creating a tiered payment system for varying levels of service speed. If you are going to stream a movie, you’ll pay for it. The second complaint is that everyone has multiple devices on the web at the same time. Some owners limit the number to one or two.

Other Park owners don’t see the importance of providing Wi-Fi at all and have systems that are so slow they are virtually useless. This happens in our experience half the time. It is then that we rely upon our own wireless “hotspot,” obtainable from a cellular dealer. If you know your expected travel routes, check on their coverage areas. There are satellite vendors like Excede entering the arena now with dish access similar to satellite TV dishes. This is great for RVers requiring greater bandwidth for streaming, but its evolution into the mobile RV community may yet have to develop before it becomes mainstream for us.

Watching the sunset.

Watching the sunset.

Worst-case scenario is a park without any service at all because of the remoteness of the location. In this case, your cell phone might not work, either. Two options are available here. Drive into the nearest town and find the local library. Or disconnect for a bit, sit outside in an easy chair, prop your feet up and enjoy what we all used to get away for: time with our family to talk, play or just watch the sunset.

Leave a Reply

6 comments

  1. David Giannini

    Good WiFi starts with smart infrastructure, and that means sufficient access points/switches/routers and Internet circuit capacity for the user-base. But to ensure that the few (DATA HOGS) don’t spoil the experience for the many (basic e-mail, VoIP, SD video, music, etc.), an operator must employ intelligent bandwidth management tools to protect users from over-running the network. These technologies are quick, easy and cost-effective, and RV Park owners and WiFi operators can give the people what they want: fast and reliable Internet so they can get on with that vacation!

  2. Greg Lach

    I see and hear your comments about wireless service. We have noticed all your concerns as well. I think some of the parks that are charging for streaming is a GOOD thing as it really impacts us ‘general” users. We find that with only cell phones and internet access for everyday operation, it is very important that parks have services that are more than basic. I am sure this will change more in the next 5 years as the demand is out there.
    You should know it is more difficult for us Canadians as we are not in the USA long enough to have regular accounts set up, but we are there long enough to need more than basic. Looking forward to what the parks will do in the future………….Greg…

  3. jack janssens sr

    A long time ago I got tired of paying for this and that and only getting minable service. Soo I got an air card from sprint, been happy ever since.

  4. Gary Shemorry

    I wonder if there is a trend to hot spots for WIFI reception through cell service? I know we rely on that more than any of the parks we have stayed at. Just my opinion but I would like to see cell service boosted and also manufacturers installing on board cell and WIFi boosters in their RV’s. Of course if cell service is not available at all then we resort back to reading……………

    -1
  5. bob

    Just wanted to add my voice to all those who always want wifi available. It is the most desirable thing I always look for when choosing a park. I’m a senior but I still want to use the internet.

  6. Heather Reckzin

    International cell rates are high which makes wifi important to international visitors. Last winter we spent two months in Florida and spent hundreds on cell service despite being in parks that advertised wifi. Sometimes it’s about just keeping in touch.