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Home Forums General Discussion Poll: PLEASE share your experience with internet and other outside services.

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    I would like to poll everyone here, mainly those off grid, what services you use and how they have worked out for you.

    Please share your experiences and make suggestions – the company/provider you use, cost, speed, pros/cons, and anything else you feel compelled to share or that others might find helpful.

    How do you handle:

    1) Internet service.

    2) Telephone (cell or land-line only?).

    3) Mail/packages (USPS, UPS, etc.)

    4) Any other communications – TV, radio, shortwave or whatever.


    Any other missed items, or pretty much any and all advice will be appreciated and helpful.

    On or off grid, please feel free to share what you have learned so that the rest of us may benefit from your experience or research!



    1-2) Cellular Phone/Internet Connection.. (Sprint) Works fine..

    3) I have a mail box in a small town close to me. A mail box at the end of the drive denotes a residence.. ;) UPS/Fed-X won’t come up my drive.. LOL.. I just meet them somewhere..

    4) CB, Commercial 2-way, Part-15 “Legal” AM and FM broadcasting, FRS, GMRS, XM Radio! (I love Deep Tracks..) “Farmer Vision” on the TV.. (*Antenna*.. Digital Over-The Air..) 74″ Projection TV/DVD in the living room with Surround Sound, 19″ TV/DVD hung over the bed with Hillbilly Surround Sound. (2 Pioneer speakers hung from the ceiling with a small audio amplifier) FM radios in every room that’s tuned to my FM Stereo Xmtr. frequency so I can listen to my XM anywhere in or “around” the house.. (Including outside by the campfire!)

    No Grid Electricity, No water well, No septic.. 512 watts of panel.. (Since ’89)

    Suggestions? No one wants to live like me! That Poopininabucket thing makes folks cringe.. :)


    Thank you! Hope you don’t mind some follow up questions for those so ignorant as myself:

    1-2) Like 3G or 4G? Do you use it as a hotspot for a computer? Pardon my not knowing, but I have never had/previously needed a cell phone with data, so know little about it or how much data might be used for typical computer use.

    3) A mailbox rental at a post office? Do you simply call UPS after placing an order and say ‘I will have to meet you at XX, please call me when in the area’?

    4) Wow, impressive.

    If no well, what do you do about water? Rainwater collection? I assume conservation is rather important, and you must have learned a tremendous amount since 89. I would very much like to hear your thoughts.

    With 512 watts of panel – how much battery do you have?

    Perhaps there are 3 types of people – those that will go in a bucket, those that refuse, and those that seem to actually enjoy it. : )



    Cellular service is currently 3G, with the promise of going 4G in a year. (That was 3 yrs. ago..) My data plan is for 6 Gig/Month and I never run over. No internet on the phone. I just use it on my laptop with an air card..

    Yes.. Post office. I “used” to live in the small town and just kept my mail box. Small town U.S.A. I know the UPS/Fed-X drivers and they have my cell number. They just call when they have something for me and I make arrangements..

    I collect rain water from my roof in a 375 gal. tank. I have 400 gal. of storage in my living area. I pump the water from the outside collection to the inside via 12 volt RV pump and treat with bleach. My inside collection will last ~2 months with 2 adults taking showers daily and general cleaning. I keep the inside collection topped off anytime it rains when I can. Winter can be interesting. Gotta keep the outside drum empty for the event of needing to haul but pull in every bit of liquid you can, when ya can. If you let it freeze up with water in it, you won’t be able to load it in the truck to go get some..

    Batteries.. I lived for many years on 4-Golf Cart batteries, connected in Series-Parallel for a 12 v.d.c. system. Now I have 8 L-16’s, still at 12 v.d.c. My complete system is geared at this voltage, hence, 12vman. I have one 400 watt inverter and that’s it. Everything else operates directly from the battery..

    I compost all of my solid waste and run the liquid out with the gray water. I separate the two for odor reasons. I have a urinal on the wall and the sit down fixture is urine diverting, totally vented outside via a small 12 volt computer fan and some drier vent hose..


    1) Internet service.
    I live in a very rural area, my only options for internet are satellite and wireless, I refuse to use satellite because they meter your bandwidth, that is the deal breaker for me, I am a heavy internet user and would quickly exhaust my bandwidth allowance. I use our local wireless through a company in the next town over, it’s horribly expensive coming in at $60 a month, it started out at $40 and went up $5 and $10 a year until it hit $60, that gets me about 3mbps, which is fast enough for me to do what I want to do but is slow by most standards. They are offering higher speed tiers for $80 and $100 per month, I will not do that, but the good thing is with the improvements in bandwidth it will free up the slower bandwidth users so we will get our full bandwidth speed during peak times.

    2) Telephone (cell or land-line only?).
    No land line for me, I use Magic Jack and Google Talk (gmail phone), Magic Jack you have to buy the dongle (can’t remember the cost on that) then it’s $20 a year for unlimited talk within the USA. I don’t have a cell phone, they don’t work very well out here, I am considering getting a prepaid cell phone to use when I travel.

    3) Mail/packages (USPS, UPS, etc.)
    I have a wonderful mail carrier, for me the trip to the mailbox is a 12 mile round trip, we do have UPS and FedEx, our main delivery drivers are great, they will come to your home IF they can get to you, road conditions allowing, during rain the dirt roads get pretty mushy, in that case they will deliver to the main office out here, it’s not a biggie.

    4) Any other communications – TV, radio, shortwave or whatever.
    I don’t have TV, the only signal available is from satellite, I refuse to pay to watch TV, I have a radio but only get one station, a local PBS station so the news and programming is mostly from a liberal point of view, something that might delight some, but not me, I’ve gotten used to it but it still annoys me, they are SUPPOSED to be in the center, but they aren’t.

    There are other people in my neighborhood with shortwave radios, hand held walkie talkies and such, I do not have any of those things.

    My only source of communication, news and entertainment is through the internet.


    Excellent information. Thank you!


    2) Have you had good luck with Magic Jack and Google Talk? I am considering them or Ooma (top rated by Consumer Reports).

    As for cell phones, I switched to Consumer Cellular (also top rated by CR) and couldn’t be happier. They have a $10 plan, but the beauty of it is that you don’t pay in advance. If you use the phone more than expected, it will tell you when you are approaching your limit and you can very easily up your plan to match your usage, right up to the last minute and with no penalty or hassle. Very easy and all aspects of the service has been excellent. They use AT&T towers, which work very well in my current location.

    3) Is your mailbox at the end of a 6 mile driveway (so no mailbox in town)? If I understand correctly, if they can’t get through, UPS/FedEx packages stay at their main offices in town for pickup?

    4) What are your favorite news sources? I often seem to have a hard time finding concise and unbiased current news on the internet. Has having all your communications ‘eggs in one basket’ (the internet/wireless ISP) ever been a problem or cause for concern?


    Great info, thanks for taking the time to share!



    Joel, I have been very happy with both Magic Jack and Google talk, honestly I don’t use the Magic Jack much, since I’m off grid I don’t leave my computer or network on when I’m not using it, so I don’t plug in the dongle unless I need it, it’s more a back up for me to use when needed, it’s much more convenient to use the Google talk, plus it’s free, I’ll decide if I want to keep my Magic Jack when it comes time to renew, I paid for the 5 year program so I have some time to decide :)

    I believe AT&T cell phones probably work best out here, well where I live, nothing really works, there are “spots” where they work somewhat, I would just want it for when I travel outside of my area. I’ll check into the one you use, I could afford $10 a month, do they have a data plan? It would be nice to be able to check my email while out of town too…

    My mailbox isn’t at the end of my driveway, I’m in what might be considered a private community, there is a long drive getting into my community, there are around 200 full time residents living here and another couple of hundred part timers, we have named streets but it’s all considered private property once you cross the first cattle guard coming in on the ranch road, this used to be all ranch land then it was subdivided and sold off in 5 acre (or larger) plots of land. The mailboxes are next to the highway at the beginning of that ranch road, they are like apartment mailboxes instead of individual mailboxes. The mailboxes used to be in the middle of our community at the country store (now defunct), but there was an “incident” that happened many years ago, it caused the law to have to close off our community for a while, there was a hostage situation and standoff, that’s when they decided to move the mailboxes to the highway.

    UPS and FedEx do come into our community and will deliver door to door IF they can, there are some roads that are 4 wheel drive only, very steep, very rough and that’s in good weather, if you live on one of those roads, or the weather is bad, they will deliver to our community center in the middle of our community. They usually call us and let us know if they had to drop something off elsewhere.

    I’m politically conservative, I have several news sources online, Drudgereport, Fox, I’ll also check sites like CNN, Google news, Yahoo news and other sites… I’ll look at MSNBC for a laugh, or to see what the “other side” is discussing… I know all of them have their own slant on news, whether it be liberal or conservative, I prefer the conservative side but still do not take everything at face value.

    I do have all of my communication eggs in one basket, BUT I have great neighbors and friends out here, if I need to make an important phone call or my internet is being flaky I can go to their house and make whatever phone calls I need, and my next door neighbor has satellite, so even if my internet is down, his is usually up so I can at least check my email.



    Thanks for all the detail, and thanks for including the costs – that is very helpful.


    It sounds like you have an excellent safety net Wretha. Here is the link for the cell plans:
    I can’t seem to get the chart to post, so here is a link to the data plans:


    A guide to data usage. Your web usage will vary depending on how you browse the web. Web pages with lots of graphics use up your quota faster than text-based pages. Use this simple guide to estimate your web usage:
    20-50 web pages: about 1 MB
    100-250 web pages: about 5 MB
    200-500 web pages: about 10 MB
    Note: Our data service is perfect for browsing web sites and using email on the go. But due to the extremely large amount of data required to watch videos, stream music, or download large files, these activities are not recommended with our service.


    Thanks for the info Joel, I’ll check it out.


    Thanks everyone for all the details and for also including the costs of service, that is very helpful. Keep it coming!

    Here is the link with the cell plans Wretha. You get alerts (that you can custom set) to tell you if you are getting close to any of your limits. You can then upgrade your plan just for that previous/current cycle, then set it back to the bottom tier or whatever works for you. So, if you get the no minutes plan, don’t use it for 2 months and then use 150 minutes the next, you could temporarily upgrade to the $15 plan for just that billing cycle.

    I had briefly looked at prepaid phones, but the minutes would expire and other hassles I didn’t want. None of them fit my needs at the time anyway, so I didn’t do a lot of research.

    Here are the data plans (texts/data):
    <table class=”tableListing fullWidth”>
    <tr class=”jsConnectTableRow jsConnectTableRow_76 tableRow”>
    <td>Connect! Lite</td>
    <td>100 / 10MB</td>
    <td style=”width: 80px;”>$2.50</td>
    <td class=”textCenter”></td>
    <tr class=”jsConnectTableRow jsConnectTableRow_77 tableRow”>
    <td>Connect! Ready</td>
    <td>500 / 50MB</td>
    <td style=”width: 80px;”>$5.00</td>
    <td class=”textCenter”></td>
    <tr class=”jsConnectTableRow jsConnectTableRow_78 tableRow”>
    <td>Connect! Active</td>
    <td>1,000 / 100MB</td>
    <td style=”width: 80px;”>$10.00</td>
    <td class=”textCenter”></td>
    <tr class=”jsConnectTableRow jsConnectTableRow_79 tableRow”>
    <td>Connect! Complete</td>
    <td>4,000 / 400MB</td>
    <td style=”width: 80px;”>$20.00</td>
    <td class=”textCenter”></td>
    <tr class=”jsConnectTableRow jsConnectTableRow_99 tableRowLast”>
    <td>Connect! Max</td>
    <td>10,000 / 1GB</td>
    <td style=”width: 80px;”>$30.00</td>
    <td class=”textCenter”></td>
    I wonder, but have no idea how much data one would use, if say, they surfed the net for maybe an hour a day and checked email a few times. I suspect checking email uses little and streaming uses a ton.

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