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 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 who rely on the internet for our jobs. It’s also a major consideration for preparedness minded people who want to connect to the internet during a power outage or long-term, grid-down situation.
When we originally wrote this article ten years ago the options were pretty limited, today in 2022, finding internet access in remote parts of the world has become a lot easier.
OFFGRID INTERNET OPTIONS – Connecting to the internet from Rural areas or during long-term disasters
Simple Cell Phone Connections
For those looking for rural or off-grid land, plenty of locations 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 still pretty slow in rural areas, they are one of the cheapest options on the market and can be a good choice for those who will not require a lot of bandwidth.
You can use your smart phone and/or tablet to access the internet via the data plan with your cellular carrier.
- 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.
- Depending on how up to date your local towers are, older technologies may see some of the slowest connection speeds out there.
- Small screen size — unless you are using the phone as a hotspot, which you may need to pay more for your data plan then.
In some areas, a signal booster will be needed to reliably hit a tower. If you have weak cellular signal in your home, a cellular signal booster can help boost your signal and hit the closest tower.
Cell signal boosters generally have three main components: an external antenna outside your home; the booster, which cleans and amplifies the signal; and an antenna inside your home that interacts with your outdoor antenna. They’re all connected by coaxial cable.
The Top Signal Boosters on the market include:
Cellular Router with Modem
One other option we want to touch on, and something popular with RVers, is the Cellular Router with Modem.
This is a pretty specialized piece of hardware. They come with one or two modems, so you can use them simultaneously with more than one SIM card / data plan for the best coverage across multiple carriers. It provides a central hub from which you can connect all of your cellular devices to access the internet.
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 4G, LTE and 5G hotspot devices on the market, including the MIMO 4×4 Panel External Antenna Kit for 4G LTE/5G Hotspots. 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, this option is nothing new. In fact, here is a cool old video that shows you how to build your own homemade WiFi Signal Amplifying antenna (sometimes called a Cantenna)
- Quickly and easily connect multiple devices.
- Faster connection speed than most cell phone plans.
- Usually cheaper than satellite and lower hardware costs.
- 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 from anywhere in the world
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 StarLink 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.
- 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.
- 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.
OTHERNET – Free Data Anywhere?
One interesting piece of gear/technology that we recently stumbled on is the Dreamweaver, which is part of the Othernet Project. Othernet can be used to capture data from a satellites for free.
The Othernet project is attempting to bring live data such as news, weather, video, books, Wikipedia articles and audio broadcasts to the world via cheap receivers and a free satellite service. It is aimed at the most remote areas of the world, and is built to continue working during disasters.
Serious OFFGRID Emergency Data Network Options for Long-term disasters.
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 emergencies, 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. Moreover, 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 an 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.
If you really want to dig deeper into the ham radio/internet options, or find out what would or could be available during a long-term grid down situation, check out some of the stuff the non-profit HamWAN is doing with their the Puget Sound Data Ring. HamWAN networks have been used for things like low-latency repeater linking, real-time video feeds from distant locations, serving APRS I-gates, providing redundant internet access to emergency operations centers, and more.
You can also check out the Amateur Radio Emergency Data Network (AREDN).
For more information on Ham Radio and Emergency Communications check out:
Fixed-Wireless ISPs, or WISPs are operating in most rural areas. They’re your best bet for decent service!
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.
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.
Agreed!! Run away from Hughes Net!
They are terrible!!! I could not get it to work unless I was up at 2AM and then it was slow and unreliable still! I changed my address 5+ times and they still got it wrong and sent a tech 2 hours in the wrong direction so my stuff never got fixed. Cancelled them and ate the early termination fee. That was 5 months ago…and then they took out more money which my bank is working with me to get back thank goodness! Over 300 dollars! Terrible company with no scruples what so ever!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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…
Jeff, it says in the article above that this isn’t really a secure option e.g., you cant enter in passwords etc. I even use a password for my email program, let alone checking bank account, credit card statements etc. What on the internet doesn’t require a password anyway? I guess just some random googling. I need secure internet but was hoping I could do that with ham radio since my bf is such a big enthusiast that we have radios all over the house and towers all over our property. If you know a way, I’d like to know. Thnx.
Vote Trump…..leaving on a hopeful note! I like it man.
That’s why I think we needed Trump in. He is not a crooked politician like all the rest. He will bring out the crooks and put an end to the B.S. (Hopefully).
He’s already started. As far as making the wall a internet antenna, good idea for free tv, internet and cell service for all.
Well said Jon and good thought Casey
after your post in feb of 2017, 80 percent of the people I know that was for the OTHER side have now switched to TRUMP, The threats and violence coming from the demwits have shown their true selves, I just want to know what they put into the koolaide that brain washed so many US people, I could use some to get my way more often
Yes, I voted for Trump somewhat unwillingly the first time, and have become much more amenable to him during his term. But many of my intelligent friends who were more “left” than I was will definitely be voting Trump this time. Not only are the leftist politicians WAY more likely to engage in the tyranny of the past 6-8 months, even if one is still an ideological leftist—look at what they’re offering as a Trump alternative. Biden? Lmfao you’ve gotta be kidding me! What a joke! Except it’s not funny, we are as close to being taken over by the CCP as we ever have been. Not to mention globalist policies funded by a morally bankrupt megalomaniac.
Except Trump is a businessman and only cared about making himself richer. Sad.
At least Obama’s FCC tried to block ISPs from being able to screw over their customers. But now we have to deal with that.
I used to be in modeling school, at a young age, k,7 in Vancouver, sopposed to something along thr lines of sex with trump that was in the eighties ahhh man.
Trump will make the border wall a giant internet repeater.
Make America Great Again!
Hey all, came across this post by accident but felt like clearing the air. Lots of miscommunication here! Don’t believe all you hear regarding hughesnet and exede. I have built a very strong and thriving company on Hughes and exede. Is some of what you all day is true, absolutely is a lot of this fabrication, absolutely! When properly sold, via an independent and reputable dealer( yes we have scumbags in our industry just like all others) these services are some of the very best in rural and off grid situations. New plans and data are always coming out as these two companies compete. You can get into these set ups for as little as $49/Mo and no installation charge. Yes it requires a two year contract but that’s why the equipment and install are free.. Competition is a spectacular thing. Am I biased, you bet; do I sell these products of course.. Do they work well when customers understand what to expect.. you betcha!
Now to address the misinformation, which is not an attack, mind you. My guess is that you heard this from an installer or friend who knew everything, right? Well they don’t. Direct has never been owned by hughesnet or vice versa. Hughes owned shares of DirecTV stock and they partnered to offer direcPC. But boy has this come a loooooong way. I have many satisfied customers getting 25mbps download speeds or better on both services. And with new advances in technology they can still stream movies, with reduced speeds in some situations. That being said most of my customers refer friends and family to us because we sell it right.. So find someone reputable you can count on! Enough of the plug, I felt the need to express my two cents.. thank you for listening.
I appreciate the information. Thanks for clearing up the misinformation.
Hughes was used at a previous place of employment in a rural area. The only time we had issues was in the event of an ice storm. Now, I am searching for personal use so I can work from home. Internet is something that is a necessity. I do not feed into rants, I just want to know the options that are available.
Hello all. Thank you very much for your comments. In general terms, what are the best services available to get internet in rural zones? Perhaps one of you have experience using this services in other countries? I’m from Honduras and I’m looking to implement a forest monitoring platform that requires internet access and Satellite internet sounds a good option compared with the fact of create an entire network in a remote place to provide internet to our monitoring modules.
Will be highly appreciated if you can recommend a good provider.
Hughes Net / Via Sat and Wild Blue are all rip off’s ….. Incredible that these people are not yet in prison. The real reason they are not is that ViaSat is the primary service provider to the military and all others come last … dead last. If you can avoid these services you will be money ahead and leave frustration behind. My daughter moved out of our house just so she could get internet service. Terrible
Vote trump? fuck you….orange flat foot european scum of the earth motherfucker
Haters are always gonna hate.. why can’t you guys just love .. stop the hate ..
Jon, perfect example of a “false equivalence” here. The fact that you think all are equivalently wrong is proof that you are wrong. No concept or understanding of satellite reception is all wrong. Some corporations are more wrong and lie more than others. Thus, we have the some are more guilty then others concept. It’s real easy to blame everyone and look at all the comments who agree with you so easily because they haven’t taken the time to distinguish or study the pluses and minuses of your blanket generalization that “it’s all bad.” What too easy folks. Get with it!!!!!!!!!!!!1
A man on fire! Well said, bro! I’m not based in the US but its the same wherever you are! Same shit, different tax farm plantation!!!
You are an idiot
I’d love to live off grid, but I currently work from home and satellite internet is prohibited with the company. Looks like I’m stuck ’til retirement :(
“uneducated liberals” <- How to spot a fucking retard people, here is one. Gather around and look at it, isn't it stupid? Yes, it really is. Pathetic, hahaha.
I agree with you 100%. But even though there are many folks that feel the same as you do, what can we do about it? how do we handle such corruption on a congressional level when we’ve got tyranny running rampant locally? I’m from Texas originally but I live in Mississippi now and I have never in my life seems touch abuse and misuse of power and position as the law enforcement here in Mississippi! so once again I ask even though what’s going on what can we do about it?