Point’nSurf

Before we left on our journey there were a lot of decisions to be made and research to be done. One of those decisions was how to connect to the internet while on the road.

I still have to work for a living and the internet is my lifeline to making income, so I needed something dependable at a reasonable cost.

I looked at a couple of possibilities. The first option I considered was Internet In Motion.

Internet In Motion is basically a reseller for cellular data services which they bundle with their own routers, amplifiers and high gain antennas. The idea of being connected while traveling down the road was a big plus, but the initial cost of their equipment seemed like a big investment to make for something that wasn’t bullet proof. If we’re not in an area that has high speed cellular service, like a major city or traveling the interstates, this system could end up being useless.

In the future as cellular providers improve internet service that could change, but since I had no idea where we might end up, I needed something we could use in the middle of nowhere now.

So I looked at my second option, satellite. I liked the idea of using a satellite dish because it would give us a little more control over where we could stay. Unlike cellular towers, satellite is always as close as the sky, as long as there are no trees in the way.

The perfect solution would be to use both, but the budget wouldn’t allow that so I had to make a choice.

Having decided on satellite, I started by doing a lot of research in the RV forums and on satellite provider’s and dealer’s websites. I also joined a Yahoo group RV Internet By Satellite which not only has a wealth of information, but a couple of satellite dealers hang out there as well.

The first choice I had to make was whether or not to get a roof mounted system or a tripod system. The advantage to the roof mounted system is that it practically points itself, but since we like to park under trees and the roof mounted systems costs about $3500 more, that was an easy decision to make.

The second choice I had to make was which satellite provider I wanted to use, Starband or Hughesnet. There were pros and cons to each provider and in the end the only reason I chose HughesNet was because at the time they offered a better variety of service agreements and they were offering a $100 rebate on the cost of equipment.

The final choice I had to make was who to use as a dealer. I could find and purchase all the equipment myself and climb that learning curve by myself, but I decided in the long run, the extra dollars I would spend to go through a dealer would be worth it. The dealers have already spent a lot time testing and using the systems they sell and are there for tech support when you need them.

There were many excellent dealers recommended by other satellite users on the forums, but when it came down to decision time, I chose Bill Brown and Point’nSurf.

I chose to go with Bill for a couple of reasons. First I liked the tripod system he sells, second his price was the best, third and actually the biggest reason, I felt I could trust him.

I went to Bill’s personal website, Bill & Susan’s Great Adventure and read their story. I felt that they were kindred spirits. Their story was ours as well.

I called Bill Brown and ordered the satellite equipment I wanted. He patiently explained everything and we made arrangements to commission my modem to a satellite at the end of March, two months before our scheduled departure date and the last day of the $100 rebate offer. That would give me a chance to set it up and use it a couple of times before we were actually on the road.

There was one problem, however. Because my home address was in Harrisburg, PA, the satellite HughesNet wanted to assign me to would not cover the northern most states and those states would be on the first leg of our journey.

Bill told me that once you’re placed on a satellite it’s difficult to be moved to another, so I was sweating it. He was willing to work with me to find a way to get me on a diferent satellite, but then at the last moment before my commissioning date, HughesNet changed me to the satellite G26 which covers the entire lower 48 states and into the southern most part of Canada and the northern most part of Mexico.

All the equipment arrived intact and came with a User Manual and a Video that walked me through the process of setting up the dish and pointing it to the satellite. The instruction booklet was very easy to follow and the video helped alot. Watching a visual of the step by step process made it a breeze to set the satellite dish up myself.

The first time I pointed to the satellite it took me all afternoon before I was online. I’m one of those people who refuse to call tech support until I’ve exhausted every avenue. I did end up calling Bill to help me finish setting up the first time. Now I am usually set up and online in less than 15 minutes.

We’ve been in a couple of places where we had no cell phone connection, but only once since we’ve been on the road did I give up on the satellite dish. That was in Monroe, WA where the trees were so tall and thick that I just couldn’t find a hole to point the satellite dish through. That week we used the campground WiFi.

I’ve only had to contact Bill two other times since that first setup and he has always been helpful and polite. I once left my Align-A-Site and my Outdoor Pointing Interface sitting on top of our bike covers hitched to the back of the coach and thought I lost them on the highway somewhere while driving down the road. Bill went out of his way to ship new ones the very same day I called and told him about my loss.

We highly recommend Point’nSurf.

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