OFF GRID Internet: How to get Internet Access when living off the grid

Going off grid doesn’t mean you have to cut all ties to civilization. In fact, thanks to modern technology you can still live your off the grid dreams, while still staying connected to the rest of the world.

One of the questions that I receive most from people looking to go off-the-grid is how they can access the internet when living in remote areas of the country. This is especially important for those of us that rely on the internet for our jobs.

OFFGRID INTERNET OPTIONS

Smartphone with Internet Access

Simple Cell Phone Connections

There are plenty of rural off the grid locations that still have accessible cell towers within reach of the land. If you live within range of one of these towers, you can use a data-capable cell phone to stay connected and surf the web. While these connections are usually pretty slow, they are one of the cheapest options on the market, and can be a good option for those that are not going to require a lot of bandwidth.

PROS:

  • One of the cheapest options for Off-Grid Internet Access.
  • Gives you the ability to make phone calls and have a dedicated phone number.
  • Completely mobile and can be taken with you anywhere in the world.
  • Depending on the phone, you may have the ability to use the phone as a WIFI enabled hotspot or tether for your other electronic devices.

CONS:

  • Some of the slowest connection speeds out there.
  • Not practical for watching videos or downloading large files.
  • Small screen size.

WiFi antenna

Wireless Internet Access: Your own Hotspot

Depending on how remote you live, using a wireless provider for internet access can help keep you connected 24/7. Most Cell Phone companies and even some newer specialized companies offer wireless Internet services designed specifically for laptops and tablets.

If you have line of sight to a mobile broadband repeater, there are a number of 3G and 4G hotspot devices on the market, including devices like the Clear Spot Voyager Wireless Hotspot and the T-Mobile Sonic 2.0 4G Mobile Hotspot. Combined with an external WiFi Antenna and signal amplifier to increase your range, this may be a great option for those who are close enough to pull in the WiFi signal.

As time goes on this may be one of the most reliable options for those that need to stay connected.

For all the DIY folks out there, here is a cool old video that shows you how to build your own homemade WiFi Signal Amplifying antenna (sometimes called a Cantenna)

PROS:

  • Quickly and easily connect multiple devices.
  • Faster connection speed than most cell phone plans.
  • Usually cheaper than satellite and lower hardware costs.

CONS:

  • More expensive than cellular and extra hardware costs.
  • Above ground installation may be required if you need external antennas to pull in a signal.

Satellite Internet

Satellite Internet

For travelers and people who have decided to live in remote areas of the world, satellite internet is now a real possibility. Companies like HughesNet and WildBlue now provide fast, affordable service to almost anywhere in the country.

One thing to keep in mind for those who are closely watching their power consumption is these satellite modems need to be completely shut off or they will continue to pull 20 – 30 watts at all times.

RV Satellite Systems Since some people like to go mobile, moving from place to place in an RV or trailer, I wanted to briefly touch on RV Satellite systems. There are a number of companies that offer satellite service for Full-time RVers, but the setup on these units is usually pretty expensive. For a good Roof-Mounted system, something that will automatically lock onto the satellite signal no matter where you park, expect to pay at least a couple thousand dollars in hardware and setup costs. On the plus side, you will have internet access in even the most remote boondocking areas of the country.

PROS:

  • The biggest advantage to using satellite internet is that you can get internet access in areas that even cell towers can’t touch.
  • Fast download speeds.
  • A number of companies will bundle satellite television services into your monthly bill.

CONS:

  • Depending on the company, you may see a decrease in download speed during peak hours.
  • Depending on the service, there may be higher hardware costs.
  • Weather can impact your signal. You need a clear view of the sky to hit the satellite.
  • Latency issues when streaming or using services like Skype.

Internet Connected Via Ham Radio

Internet via Ham Radio

Although not really practical for large downloads or streaming large files, it is possible to build a repeater network that allows you to access the internet through a ham radio. In fact, during emergency situations ham radios can be used quite successfully to send email, data, and documents when all other forms of communication have gone down.

Even before the internet, Ham radio operators were using an internet of their own called Packet Radio. Packet Radio allows Hams to send files, update bulletin board systems, send text messages and even control remote systems and networks via their radios. Should some catastrophic event ever occur that takes out the internet, Packet Radio technology can still be used to link remote stations and form an ad hoc network — or emergency internet of sorts.

Today, through worldwide radio messaging systems like DStar and Winlink, Ham radio operators can send email with attachments, send emergency relief communications and message relays, and even access the internet. Although the legality of using it to access certain parts of the internet is still in question, and one would not want to transmit personal data or passwords via these technologies, it is a viable option for accessing the internet during emergency situations.

Here is a good video from Amateur Radio Operator Chris Matthieu showing that it is possible to access the internet with a Ham Radio.

21 Comments

  1. keebler
    June 9, 2015 at 9:12 am

    Hughesnet AGGGGG
    I had it for 3 years (WORSE MISTAKE) I ever made,,,horrible service, people can’t speak English, they charge a fortune to keep it working.
    never again.
    Richie.

  2. John
    June 14, 2015 at 6:22 am

    Please stop and do some research before recommending a company like Hughesnet, easily the worst company I have ever dealt with. The number of complaints about their company is truly mind-boggling, yet they manage to still be in business. Hughes installed our service two years ago, and after the installer got us to sign the papers, then told us our bandwidth limitations were split into time brackets, we had a dish installed that pointed at the back of our house, incapable of providing speeds at ANY time over 3mbps, and no service at all between 5pm and 1am.

  3. Dan
    September 26, 2015 at 6:25 am

    I agree with the above comments. I have had Hughes & Exede both are very expensive & when you reach your limit the speeds drop to nothing. I have a wireless service now here in central Texas called AMA-TECTEL. Bundled with phone service they are really cheap with excellent service. Their service people online or by phone all speak English without a damn accent.

  4. Rich
    October 9, 2015 at 7:45 pm

    Stay FAR FAR away from anything Hughes! I bought into their DirecPC service which was the first internet service they had and it was sold by CompUSA and within a couple of hours of having it installed hit their “FAP” (fair access policy) which at the time was not made known to the subscriber until after they hit the limit. Thankfully I got it from CompUSA and had 7 days to return it. I pulled the thing off my roof and returned it and NEVER have done business with anything having to do with hughes network systems again… In fact I won’t even get Direct TV because it’s a hughes product. And by the way that is how they stay in business because they have a lot of TV subscribers.

  5. Rich
    October 9, 2015 at 7:47 pm

    Oh and one other thing – Hughes was sued over the “FAP” in a massive class action suit for false advertising. Did it get them to change their ways? No… they just now disclose that the service is subject to the Fair Access Policy. I think that they HAVE to do this because their system is over-subscribed. Not enough bandwidth to cover all the customers on it.

  6. Rick
    May 1, 2016 at 9:56 am

    Unfortunately this is the way it is. Liberal undeducated idiots wasting our time after being handed a forum they know nothing about. Everything written that I do know about is completely wrong so I have to doubt about all the rest. I subscribed to Hughes Net years ago when my 24k Verizon service was no longer keeping up with the poor coding skills of city bred kids. After my contract with Hughes expired, I was ready to go back to Verizon to give you just an Inkling of how bad Hughes is. Unfortunately under Brown and Obama, Verizon allowed it’s service quality to drop below 300 Baud, what I was getting back in 1970 but below what my hardware could currently connect with…-300 Baud??? Yet Hughes Net is often below the 40k I used to get on dial-up. Better coders wrote cover pages that would down load fast for surfer to entice them in, Not anymore. Today’s coders cram as much bandload as they can into the web page cover. When I first signed up with Hughes Net, there was no FAP and I was sold a 1.5Mbps service (worse than 3rd world countries and twenty times more costly.) It was only 1.2 Mbps but so much better than 24k that I was happy until the three month trial period was over.Very next day it permanently dropped below 250k and even without FAP, often under 1200k, what I was using by 1980. I called to complain many times but oneday while I was on the phone the assistant clicked a few keys and it jumped to my original 1.2Mbps, unfortunately only for a couple of days. In California Hughes lost a class action lawsuit. The crony judge awarded $1.34 to customers that had been robbed every month for a minimum of 3yrs. That the loon that wrote this thinks we get high speed and large downloads when streaming is impossible and data limited to less than 150HD frames a day shows they are out of touch beyond the pale. FAP was Obama’s pet, Vote Trump…

    • RickEnter your name...
      May 1, 2016 at 9:59 am

      Typo, I meant below 1200 Baud

    • Jon McIntyre
      December 4, 2016 at 12:39 pm

      I find people who believe “their team” is honest and doing the right thing while “the other team” is corrupt and ruining America to be quite hilarious. That is a trap cleverly set for you my friend. Liberals and Conservatives have each been handed a prepackaged ideology with a perfect diametrically opposed foe. You have been hoodwinked. All politicians are scum and criminals. The thing you believe is a government is nothing more than theatrical presentation designed to convince the unsophisticated masses that they have an elected government and that voting actually does something more than grant you the illusion of power. Be your own man. Be who you are. Not some cookie cutter “choice of one or the other” ideology. Bush is a criminal.Clinton is a criminal. Reagan was a criminal. Obama is a criminal. And sadly Trump is as well. Do you really believe that anyone who has risen to become the ultimate master of a system based on pure corruption would ever do anything to jeopardize their power, wealth, and prestige? No. They would not. They are all masters of the system that abuses us and lines their pockets with gold. Wake up. Liberals are not the enemy. Conservatives are not the enemy. The criminals who wear both of those hats who run our corrupt system of “government” which is really nothing more than a corporation designed to maximize the extraction of the wealth of the people generated by our own labor, those people are the enemies. Regardless of which fake ideology they claim to adhere to. The two opposing ideologies are nothing more than an act, a ritual competition for the gullible masses to consume. Their true ideology is lust for power and theft from you and I. Wake up. Don’t allow yourself to be distracted by the fake contest between the left an the right. They are running a scam on you.

      • Merry Lee
        February 14, 2017 at 8:30 am

        AMEN, brother Jon!

    • KEK
      December 8, 2016 at 1:58 am

      Vote Trump…..leaving on a hopeful note! I like it man.

    • Casey
      January 8, 2017 at 7:17 am

      Trump will make the border wall a giant internet repeater.

      Make America Great Again!

  7. okay than,going way off grid next year,north central maine,zero internet or cell service,really lookingfor a real option,sugjestions welcome,but really need working real options,thanx,

    • Melanie
      July 15, 2016 at 7:53 pm

      Michael Gilligan,
      Have you had any luck finding a company? If yes, could you please pass information along my way?
      Thanks bunches!

    • Roger Banks
      July 18, 2016 at 8:12 am

      I’ve used Exede it’s not dirt cheap and I’ve read several complaints but worked great for us. Without cellular coverage satellite will be your best bet as far as availability. Otherwise you are likely to have to construct some infrastructure yourself.

  8. Randy P
    August 20, 2016 at 2:12 pm

    For many years i thought satellite was all i could get, But my neighbor recently informed me About 4gantennashop.com they have great deals for unlimited LTE Data. $35.00 for unlimited data is unbeatable. I’m just here to help people save money.

  9. mp
    August 24, 2016 at 7:29 am

    You can assess the internet via HAM radio linking with a satellite that EMS uses right now. Hook up with a good HAM club in your area and learn how to do it. If you wish to be discrete just find one of the HAM crowd who knows the how2 and make a friend. It works!

    • Jeff
      September 24, 2016 at 5:32 pm

      Why bother linking to a satellite when so many terrestrial ham options are available? I routinely surf the web from the edges of the known world and have no real issues. Patience is required due to the speeds, but its free and the connection can be secured with just a little effort. 73…

  10. Bob
    November 29, 2016 at 1:47 am

    Based on the answers to this webpage post… Seems like the person who made it OBVIOUSLY hasnt kept up with the news and the times. … With that in mind, my inquiry is simple. Is it possible to receive an internet signal, or EVEN PICK UP an internet signal/ have internet with: an ordinary indoor tv antenna, hooked up to a cable, or whatever modem, which is hooked up to a DESKTOP/ LAPTOP COMPUTER? please someone answer back, as it seems alot of the internet pages/posts are just complete bulls*** (btw, without subscription to a B/S PROVIDER?)

  11. Pete Oed
    December 6, 2016 at 9:49 am

    No

    • KEK
      December 8, 2016 at 2:02 am

      Bummer

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