Living off the grid is a dream for a growing segment of Americans, especially as civilization goes to crap before our eyes. The one thing keeping most people from realizing this dream is the fear of losing the internet. Fear not! There are a few simple ways you can get the web even when you’re hundreds of miles from civilization.
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.
Offered Internet Options:
1) 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.
2) 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.
3) 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.
From personal experience I can tell you to avoid HughesNet. Horrible service, bad support, they charge a fortune to keep it working, hidden fees. Might better avoid it unless no other option, and then there’s always Ham Radio for good basic service.
4) 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.
5) Connect Via Dial-Up Internet. Remember dial-up? Yep, it’s still available, even though it has its limits (such as not being able easily to watch videos). More than 2 million Americans are still using dial-up, saving lots of money along the way. Dial-up would work for a while when the electricity is out because landlines would still be working. Landlines are “powered” by the phone company, allowing them to operate when, for instance, a storm knocks out electricity to your town.
For most off-the-grid homes, a favorite choice and growing segment is the option of running a mobile hotspot. Of course, there are still many places in which this option doesn’t work due to the lack of a mobile signal, but those spaces are filling in daily, and until then, satellite internet is an option.
A surprising option, if you happen to be proficient at using a Ham radio, is using a repeater to get some basic internet. It’s not much, but for those of us who want to live off-the-grid, anyways, maybe it’s just what we need.
Internet Connections of the Future
One of the many projects of our wireless companies and Internet service providers is to develop a true nationwide Wi-Fi network. There have been reports that they intend to use every wireless device in every home as a Wi-Fi hotspot, providing true coast-to-coast mobile coverage. Of course, there be will many privacy concerns with such a system.
Another experimental program is being developed by Space X, the private space flight company. They have just received government approval to install a constellation of low altitude satellites, specifically for providing worldwide Internet access.
This isn’t the first time that something like this has been proposed. Other companies have either looked at the possibility or even made some strides towards launching a satellite. But in all cases, the program has failed. Developers say the big difference this time is that the plan is being fostered by a company that sends rockets up into space regularly. Then there’s the possible health issues they are coming out on this type of service.
Don’t give up on the Internet, even if off grid or even in a crisis situation. There are ways of connecting and there will probably be service available to use. The key is to have the right sort of equipment and connections available for what you will need.
This is a really good basic look at the options for internet away from the lights of the cities.
Start now to make sure you are staying prepared.