Campground Wifi is Not Created Equal

One of the more interesting things I’ve learned as an IT worker is that a lot more of my bandwidth is consumed by the basics than I thought. The basics are things like a OSX Mavericks developer preview updates weighing in a 1GB each. There’s been 7 so far. I have some weird neurosis that requires me to keep my systems up to date. I have 4 physical machines in our rv, 2 android tablets, iphones, etc and all of those devices have their own hefty updates to install. So I will allow a couple of weeks to go by but eventually I have to find a campground with good wifi. We’ve found that most larger campgrounds have a heavily managed infrastructure. They are typically tengo internet or some variant. Usually bandwidth is limited to 1Mbps which after playing the game with a Verizon LTE mifi is painful. The worst part is that the arbitrary 1Mbit limitation is usually done poorly so when one application is saturating the connection downloading updates, trying to do anything else simply doesn’t work. On a Tengo internet connection individual packets are processed but delayed. If you run a ping session you’ll start seeing 10 second latency on packets. Total nightmare.

Somewhat unexpectedly what we found is that smaller campgrounds with basic unmanaged wifi are amazing. When we stayed at White River campground in Cicero, IN we found that they had a 30mbit business cable connection in their office on a standard wifi access point. Sure nobody can use it normally but point a high powered WISP antenna at it and the precious nectar of bandwidth is at your beck and call. Another campground we recently were at is Shady Grove Wifi Campground (yes they put wifi in the name). This place does not get very good reviews. It’s in some dude’s back yard but there is a place to walk, it’s completely empty, the owner is super friendly, the utilities work and the internet? A relatively unmanaged 6mbps.

Then there was Red Barn Rendevous in Edwardsville, IL. Their wifi signal was very strong but was backed by a Ku band Hugesnet system. We were warned against doing basically anything and our mifi was substantially faster even after considering the satellite latency. It also ceased to function very often. Before we started travelling I was heavily considering a satellite internet connection but IMHO this is a waste of time. Simply choose to stay in Verizon coverage area and all will be fine.

The other campgrounds we review will mention wifi and bandwidth. You can use our experience as a guide if you need to have fast internet always available. We don’t because of the mifi but every 2-3 weeks we do need to connect to make big downloads. Additionally we will talk about all of the wifi tech we’ve acquired and knowledge. For someone like me, establishing a long range wifi link is interesting and fun. My record so far is 2.5 miles (according to google maps).