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Old 10-19-2016, 07:58 PM   #1
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Internet in the boonies

Not having any response from this issue in the Electrical and Electronics forum, I'm posting this here:

I'm trying to come to grips with the realities of obtaining WWW access in "the boonies". So, where are MY boonies??? My areas of concern are from the British Columbia (BC) border of Washington State, north through BC, and throughout Southeast Alaska (SEAK). For background, I travel aboard SPIRIT BEAR (a 40' Pacific Trawler) from my home waters of Puget Sound into BC often throughout the year. Less often, but for longer periods of time, I travel through BC and into SEAK. My favored cellular provider in WA State is Verizon, with whom I've had a 20-year association.

My need for access to the Internet while afloat is not data-centric. By that, I do NOT do video downloads to my cellphone or IPad, listen to Internet music, post to social media sites, send huge photo files to blog sites, etc when underway in either BC or SEAK. I DO like to download GRIB files for weather prediction, text weather reports from Environment Canada and NOAA, search out services via the WWW when in major ports of call and send/receive email when afloat.

I am aware of the ability to generate a WiFi signal (to grab the WWW when needed) from my cell phone and Jetpack (when I have connectivity). I'm aware of the availability of WiFi boosters to boost the presence of a WiFi signal received via cellular connectivity, or generated externally from a nearby WiFi source (marinas, for instance). I've poked into satellite-generated WiFi, and more conventional satellite services. But I'm still confusitcated.

My best guess on how to solve my conundrum is to:
a. Keep Verizon as my local hometown cellular provider, but perhaps suspending service while I'm off cruising. I will continue to use Verizon when back in Washington State.
b. Buy a prepaid Telus or Rogers (the BC local providers of cellular service) SIM card, and manually exchange my Verizon SIM card when I cross the Canadian border northbound. My guess is this will maximize my connectivity (i.e. provide more signal strength) when in BC. And, if I exceed my data limit in the time I'm "in country", I will simply be SOL until I can re-up my card. Note I'd use this card for roughly one month northbound, followed by a (typically) two month hiatus while in SEAK, and then again for another month on my southbound leg of a trip to/from Washington to SEAK.
c. Buy a prepaid AT&T SIM card for use in SEAK, and change out my Telus (for instance) SIM card accordingly, to maximize my connectivity while in SEAK. I'd need this card for roughly two months while in SEAK.
d. I'm assuming I can buy prepaid SIM cards without having to buy the "burner phone" that comes from these various providers, and stuff these SIM cards into my own IPhone and/or IPad. It's not intuitively obvious that's the case, if you venture onto their respective web sites for info...

Note that Verizon, as a cellular provider (even with an "International Data Plan" for use in BC) is (IMHO) absolutely useless once you cross the US border northbound. Per Verizon Tech Support, they have no idea why data roaming within BC provides such lousy connectivity in-country. They blame the AT&T infrastructure within SEAK as "incompatible" with Verizon technology. Net result-Verizon is a LOUSY cellular provider in western BC.

Any other advice?

Regards,

Pete
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Old 10-19-2016, 08:10 PM   #2
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I found Verizon was outstanding in BC over the summer. I roamed on Telus, Rogers, and Bell depending on what was available. And it only cost me $2 per day to use my phone just like I do at home.

What hardware were you using? What Verizon plan do you have?
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Old 10-19-2016, 09:32 PM   #3
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I agree with retriever that currently Verizon has the best roaming plan for Canada. For $2 per day, only billed on days when you actually use it, your US plan is extended to Canada. It's the first international roaming plan I've seen that is actually useable.

One observation though. We ran our iPads and my ATT phone on ATT roaming plans, and my wife's Verizon phone on the Verizon roaming plan. Pretty consistently the Verizon phone was roaming on one of the Canadian 3G services while the ATT plans were on 4G or LTE. So I suspect what good-deal Verizon plan actually gets you is roaming on the Canadian carrier's legacy systems rather than their most current. But it works, and for voice it makes no difference at all. Just data is slow.

In SEAK, ATT is distinctly better than Verizon. In the few cities both are fine, but everywhere else Verizon fades away or is in existent while ATT remains on line.
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Old 10-19-2016, 11:05 PM   #4
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I don't recall the exact details of the "plan" but I think I had a Mexico/Canada plan this summer and it worked relatively well in BC with my cell phone booster. Using the cell phone as a Hot Spot for weather and data.

Of course I got regular emails from Verizon that my data was about to run out and for only $15 they would sell me 1 gb or for $10/month they would sign me up for 2 gb. I think that AT&T is the one to have in SE Alaska.

Just for information, I tried the Sirius/XM satellite weather connection. Bought the program and hardware fort $1k + after explicitly telling them where I was going and what I wanted--weather in BC and SE Alaska. Worked with it for 2 days by myself and with tech support and net result was.."well hell, you're in Alaska and it doesn't go there"

So, sent it back, cancelled Sirius/XM and received refund.....minus shipping and handling of course.
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Old 10-19-2016, 11:55 PM   #5
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I live in Alaska, and have spent a decade and a half boating in "the boonies".

If...you are satisfied with having internet and telephone when within range of a cellular provider, then by all means choose a provider, or a mix of providers. You will get coverage in many areas, and can do so for just a little money.

If...You want, or need internet and telephone anywhere, and by that I mean anywhere, go with a satellite system. We have 5 seasons under our belts using the KVH Mini Vsat service in rural Alaska. We have found over that time that the service is extremely reliable. We have 2mbps download capability, along with crystalclear voice calls.

While VSAT equipment and service is not inexpensive by any measure, if you need connectivity, anytime, anywhere then it is a viable solution.
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Old 10-20-2016, 01:07 AM   #6
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Hi all.

From the tenor of the responses to date, and further investigation, it appears my intuition is correct. Choose the local cellular provider and use their services, and the heck with international roaming from your "home" provider. Again, I believe the pick of the litter for local cellular providers to be either Telus or Rogers in western BC, and AT&T in AK.

And it appears some of my connectivity issues may be hardware related. My IPhone 3 appears good for 3G legacy data within BC, but in actual practice functions poorly at best (slllooooowwww), and may have a hardware-related fault (i.e. can't generate a local WiFi "hotspot"). My Kyocera flip phone won't roam AT ALL in Canada.

So, this leaves my original assumption, that I can, in fact, purchase pre-paid SIM cards from appropriate vendors, and (assuming I upgrade at least my IPhone) stuff them into the IPhone when I cross borders to enable cellular connectivity at least as good as the locals enjoy. If I need/desire 24/7 coverage, I must move on to VSAT technology.

Can't wait to see what this mess costs. And thanks very much for your inputs. Much appreciated.

Regards,

Pete
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Old 10-20-2016, 06:42 AM   #7
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I have an ATT service plan on my Galaxy Note 4. I frequently travel to Canada, and this summer vacationed in Alaska and PNW.
My calling plan was upgraded by my company to an international plan, which was an additional $15/mo. My service is excellent in Canada.

AND...

Not trying to steal the thread, but my wife's phone is a Nexus 5, and is on the Google-fi service. That plan is $20/mo, plus actual data usage, with NO contract. Use 1.8G of data?...your bill is $38. Use .6G? $26. She had coverage pretty much everywhere I did...excellent coverage throughout SE Alaska/Vancouver.
Her and her brother were on a Verizon "family share" plan...$180/mo. They are both now on Google-fi, and the two bills combined are about $45/mo avg.
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Old 10-20-2016, 09:39 AM   #8
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The closest thing we have to Wi-fi on the boat is GPS.
No need for anything else. Oh .. when in US waters I do make a point of carring my cell.

I see young people and when a picture is taken of them most of the time if you look at their hand there's a phone. When young people come out to our house they carry that stupid phone around ... or play games on it. I should have a bucket by the door and have everybody dump their phones in it when they come. Would'nt hurt to have it full of water ..... just kidd'in. My step daughter needs hers as she manages an appartment.

But here we are mostly all older men it sounds like you guys are about as addicted to the Wi-fi stuff as the kids. All the time you spend w this stuff is taken away from your boating experience. May as well just get on-line at your marina. But I spose you couldn't point your phone at everything in sight taking selfies and other crappy pics ... and that's part of the fun .. as you'all see it .. I suppose.

I Frequently just leave my phone at home even when I think about it. Just don't wanna be bothered w it. When I'm out and about and it rings I consider it a PITA. I take it most of the time just to comunicate w my wife when we're not together. And I have no need to be seen doing the most modern .. latest thing.

Just my opinion but sometimes it seems people are more interested in phones and Wi-fi stuff than life. Haha but if I knew half the stuff you can do w an i-phone I may be more interested. I don't own an i-phone and don't consider even that much of a blessing. Sure I could know the exact current where I am at any given time. Do I need to know that? No. More accurate navagation is IMO just not needed. And I can look at my GPS and see we're at 5.15 knots and know that I'm bucking a one knot tide current. Well I suppose it could be a three knot current at an angle. But w a slight course change I could basically tell that. I look at it all as a need to know priority. BUT ... I really enjoy looking ahead on my i-pad at the charts ahead on my downloaded Navamatics. That reminds me my Navamatics is about 10 years old and an up grade may be far better than what I have. They may even display the names of places now.

Oh when I get in port I do like to go to Starbucks and get on line. But the coffee's about an equal draw.
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Old 10-20-2016, 12:40 PM   #9
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I agree with a lot of what's been said above. In SE Alaska, AT&T is BY FAR the best option. Verizon and T-Mobile are almost useless except in and around a few towns. We have spent both of the past two summers there, and depend on our connection to work while we're cruising.

In BC, Verizon and T-Mobile both have amazingly good service (and I think equivalent service since it appears they partner with the same Canada carriers - TELUS, Rogers, Bell). Verizon has the aforementioned $2/day to roam in Canada with your US plan. T-Mobile's newer "Unlimited" plans let you roam in Canada at no additional charge.

I'm not sure there's any advantage into getting a Canadian SIM card compared with Verizon - it might even not be as good as you're having to choose one Canadian carrier, where I believe Verizon roams to several different ones. Also, you generally have to do some trickery to get a Canada SIM card unless you have a Canada home address.

I would strongly suggest getting a device newer than an iPhone 3, however, iPhone 3 doesn't have LTE/4G capability and a lot of the networks you'll need to connect to are LTE/4G.

I wrote an article for slowboat.com recently "WiFi in the Wilderness" on this exact topic: WiFi in the Wilderness – Slowboat

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Old 10-20-2016, 01:37 PM   #10
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Wifey B: Like Kevin, we have Satellite. We used KVH in Alaska. A day without internet is like a day without sunshine.
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Old 10-20-2016, 02:04 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nomad Willy View Post
The closest thing we have to Wi-fi on the boat is GPS.

But here we are mostly all older men it sounds like you guys are about as addicted to the Wi-fi stuff as the kids. All the time you spend w this stuff is taken away from your boating experience. May as well just get on-line at your marina. But I spose you couldn't point your phone at everything in sight taking selfies and other crappy pics ... and that's part of the fun .. as you'all see it .. I suppose.
We are able to boat because we are able to stay connected. We run a business full time, and we are still able to be on the water more than half the year. Without WiFi on the water, we'd be relegated to a few weekends and maybe one 2-3 week trip per year.

It's not that we love being connected so much that we even want to do it while boating. It's that we love boating so much we still want to do it even when we have to remain connected.
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Old 10-20-2016, 02:18 PM   #12
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If you need internet when not in range of a cell connection, then one of the satellite systems is the way to go, but they are way too expensive for me.

I use Verizon as me cell carrier and my current plan covers me for data rooming in Canada at no extra charge. We have a family plan with shared data. I was going to do the $2.00/day deal that was mentioned above but the shared data plan was a better option for us. This last summer there were times when I didn't have enough of a cell signal to use may phone as a hotspot, but usually we could.
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Old 10-20-2016, 02:33 PM   #13
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Wifey B: Like Kevin, we have Satellite. We used KVH in Alaska. A day without internet is like a day without sunshine.
kids today....
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Old 10-20-2016, 03:23 PM   #14
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tfmkevin wrote;
"We are able to boat because we are able to stay connected. We run a business full time, and we are still able to be on the water more than half the year. Without WiFi on the water, we'd be relegated to a few weekends and maybe one 2-3 week trip per year."

I knew that was coming.
What did people do before the internet? And more importantly how much of your internetting is business? But it's not a matter of time spent but how necessary it is. Or important just for fun.
Most or at least many people only justify doing things if they can justfy it by doing something else at the same time. Like some fish so they can go boating or hike so they can go into the woods.
Many people vacay so they can get UNconnected. You stay connected to go vacay.??


Wify B,
A day w/o internet is a day of deprivation? Maybe you'll be the first to admit you're addicted.
If I was to say "internet in the boonies?" I'd be inclined to say who needs it? Well now I have someone to put in the list.
A day w/o sunshine is a break from too much light (frequently in the face) and all the wind generated by the heat and dark shadows. However I was born in Juneau so may not have seen the sun till I was at least several months old. So I'm not a fish out of water w/o sunshine.
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Old 10-20-2016, 03:35 PM   #15
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tfmkevin wrote; "We are able to boat because we are able to stay connected. We run a business full time, and we are still able to be on the water more than half the year. Without WiFi on the water, we'd be relegated to a few weekends and maybe one 2-3 week trip per year."

I knew that was coming.
What did people do before the internet? And more importantly how much of your internetting is business? But it's not a matter of time spent but how necessary it is. Or important just for fun.
Most or at least many people only justify doing things if they can justfy it by doing something else at the same time. Like some fish so they can go boating or hike so they can go into the woods.
Many people vacay so they can get UNconnected. You stay connected to go vacay.??
Wifey B: What did people do before air travel? What did people do before wifi? What did people do before electricity? What did people do before running water?

How necessary? if you're going to own, operate or be involved in a business, it's very necessary that you are able to communicate and in contact. It's not necessary that we have a business but we choose to as it's hubby's hobby and we do both enjoy it.

To some, being in contact with home and others is contrary to vacation. To us, it's a very essential part of vacation on a personal basis as well as business. There are people I'd miss, that I want communication with. I want to be able to skype with my niece wherever I am. I have done so since a week after she was born when obviously she had no idea.

Internet is a very basic and enjoyable part of our lives. I would be miserable if I was away for six weeks or more with no connection. I love having as much of home as possible with me.
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Old 10-20-2016, 03:43 PM   #16
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kids today....
Wifey B: It's funny to look at people of all ages and those things they've never been without. This talk started on cell phone connectivity. Cell phones are relatively new. However, those under 20 have never lived without them. Meanwhile those of you over 60, lived more than half of your lives without them. I'm sure there were those who questioned the need for electricity and for phones.

We are very much like those television commercials where the internet goes out for ten minutes and everyone panics. Ours was out one night at home and couldn't be fixed until the following day, so we used our tablets and smartphones on cellular connections. That's the only thing that kept us from having serious withdrawal.
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Old 10-20-2016, 03:54 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nomad Willy View Post
tfmkevin wrote;
"We are able to boat because we are able to stay connected. We run a business full time, and we are still able to be on the water more than half the year. Without WiFi on the water, we'd be relegated to a few weekends and maybe one 2-3 week trip per year."

I knew that was coming.
What did people do before the internet? And more importantly how much of your internetting is business? But it's not a matter of time spent but how necessary it is. Or important just for fun.
Most or at least many people only justify doing things if they can justfy it by doing something else at the same time. Like some fish so they can go boating or hike so they can go into the woods.
Many people vacay so they can get UNconnected. You stay connected to go vacay.??
We may not be the "normal" case, but we both work full time, probably 35-60 hours per week online, running an internet business.

Before the internet - well, we'd have different jobs, and perhaps no boat. I'd maybe be spending those 35-60 weekly hours in a big corporate building somewhere engineering things. My wife would be in her photography studio doing portraits of interesting people.

Since we do have the ability to stay connected on the water, we have chosen for our office to be floating, with different views every day. This year, we left Washington in May, traveled up the Inside Passage to SE Alaska, and returned 5 months later - both of us working full time all the way.

For us, this is not "vacation." It is our normal, everyday, working life.
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Old 10-20-2016, 05:35 PM   #18
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I think that your situation, although uncommon, is becoming more common all the time. I think it is great that it has allowed you to not only be financially successful but given you a lot more flexibility in your schedule than most of us could ever dream of.
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Old 10-20-2016, 05:41 PM   #19
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"For us, this is not "vacation." It is our normal, everyday, working life."

Kevin,

That my friend is living the dream!

Bob & Jill
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Old 10-20-2016, 07:51 PM   #20
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We may not be the "normal" case, but we both work full time, probably 35-60 hours per week online, running an internet business.

Before the internet - well, we'd have different jobs, and perhaps no boat. I'd maybe be spending those 35-60 weekly hours in a big corporate building somewhere engineering things. My wife would be in her photography studio doing portraits of interesting people.

Since we do have the ability to stay connected on the water, we have chosen for our office to be floating, with different views every day. This year, we left Washington in May, traveled up the Inside Passage to SE Alaska, and returned 5 months later - both of us working full time all the way.

For us, this is not "vacation." It is our normal, everyday, working life.
We run an internet and telephone based business as well. Without connectivity we would be stuck at the office
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