We'll probably also use a cell phone with a notebook PC for Internet access when we go to full-timing. Verizon will probably be the provider since there's no extra charge to use their Mobile Office
if you have one of their digital plans, such as America's Choice
or Nation Single-Rate.
The difference between these two is that while America's Choice has some areas where you pay roaming charges and don't get free long distance
where with the slightly more expensive Nation Single-Rate, you never pay for roaming or long-distance anywhere in the US.The one thing I'm not positive at this time is whether you can buy unlimited nights and weekends with Nation Single-Rate for another $5/month like you can with America's Choice. It doesn't appear that you can ordering from the web.
One problem with using either of these plans with Mobile Office is that you're using their "Quick2Net" circuit-switched connection, which is an abysmally slow 14.4 kbps. This is fine if your email is POP based and you have your email client set to dial-in, download the mail, and you read and respond to it off-line, letting it upload your replies next time you log on. However, if your email is web-based, like Hotmail or Yahoo!, the slow speed will cause you to use a LOT of plan minutes reading and responding to email. Web-browsing, particularly of this and other forums, not to mention web-based mail, will be painfully slow and best done during unlimited nights and weekend minutes.
Verizon also offers Express Network
. This allows speeds "bursting" up to 144 kbps and is more like having a 56k modem from what I've heard from a few who have it. Although it says domestic roaming and long distance are covered, I'm not positive if this is in all areas like Nation Single-Rate.
One thing is for sure, the capability it offers is only available in limited areas.
However, they say this plan can be used for the slower Quick2Net circuit-switched data (and voice). It appears Express Network is no more expensive than Nation Single-Rate and I'm not positive at this time is whether you can buy unlimited nights and weekends with Express Network for another $5/month like you can with America's Choice. It doesn't appear that you can ordering from the web.
Even outside of the Express Network, or with only Quick2Net, you must be in a digital area for data. And I'm not positive that all digital areas will even support Quick2Net circuit-switched. In fact, I'm not even sure that Quick2Net is available outside the same areas that support Express Network. Perhaps it is and it's only available in the non-roaming areas covered by Americas Choice. I don't know.
Maybe someone here who has it could speak to that.
One thing I did discover on their web site some time ago is that if you buy one of the data-capable phones bundled with the Mobile Office Kit, you pay significantly more than buying the phone and the Mobile Office Kit separately, even on the same web order. This may have changed since the last time I checked and it might even be the other way around now. Check it out for yourself!
They have a significant rebate on the Motorola T720 if you turn in an old phone that works. I like this phone because it has a GPS chip and is E911 capable, even though probably few emergency services support it at this time.
You're not always going to be in an area where data over cell phone is available, so having a modem is a requirement, even if the campground only has one or two phone lines for data use, for example, in the laundry room. You're also going to have to have a number to dial. There are cheap ISPs and there are more expensive ISPs. Some ISPs provide more "local access" numbers than others. The fact is that with any of them, sooner or later you're probably going to wind up camping where there are no "local access" numbers. Some ISPs provide a toll-free 800 number, but every minute on that is an extra charge on your ISP bill. An alternative would be to use a long-distance calling card to make a long-distance connection to an access number that is "local" somewhere else, even in another state. That might be cheaper than the per minute charge from the ISP for the toll-free dial-in.
So it looks like you need the data over cell plan, an ISP plan, AND a calling card, to have reliable connectivity going this route.
I'm far from an expert in this area, and am just trying to become an informed prospective customer, so if anyone catches anything wrong with this, jump right in and correct me!