WiFi in RV parks: An attitude Survey

I do feel sorry for the people at the front desk sometimes.  When they have WiFi in their RV park, they get a lot of questions.  AND a lot of complaints.  We ask about WiFi availability whenever we check into an RV park – kind of a research project on our part.

At one RV park, I could swear the woman seemed overly happy to tell us that there was NO Internet access available.  Come to find out they had WiFi there at one point, but it was so problematic that they took it out.  She was probably so relieved not to deal with the problems that she truly was happy to announce that Internet was completely unavailable.

The next RV park had free WiFi, and the person behind the desk still sounded apologetic, telling us that lots of people had problems with it.  We used their system quite successfully the whole time we were there, which leads me to believe that most, if not all, of their problems were the users’ problems.  They certainly had enough antenna/access points.  Mounted on light poles, there were 2 of them on every other row of RVs.  There was a total of 5 AP’s there for 250 sites.  That’s pretty good coverage.  We never were able to tell how the Internet connection was delivered to those AP’s.  It could be that they were just repeaters, which could explain low signal and user problems.

AP on Light Pole AP on Light Pole (2)

The next park was the most interesting.  We asked, as always, “Do you have Internet available?”.  Their answer was NO, although they did point to a phone jack on the wall and, say we could bring our laptop up, during business hours, and plug in.  But, in further conversation they offered that, “There is a third party provider of WiFi available in the park – here’s their information.”  They made it abundantly clear that, “if you have questions call these people (Wireless Web) don’t talk to us!”

The antennas were sure nice and high – and in clear view of our site.  We had good signal, but when we tried to connect we got the message “Limited or no connectivity.”  Now, we know that usually means the connection between the Access Point and the Internet Service Provider is down or blocked for some reason.  Usually, a simple reset of the equipment will solve the problem.  But a reset needs a person physically there to turn it off and back on again.  Given the attitude of the staff, that’s probably not a simple matter here.  We just raised our dish and went on.

Canyon RV antenna 20060128_0177.JPG

The next park with WiFi was Morro Bay State Park.  I was really looking forward to this because it’s a California State park and there had been quite a lot of press about how SBC got the contract to install WiFi in all the state parks.  And, I knew the price was $7.95/day which is pretty high by RV park standards.  We expected the service to be good.  We were disappointed.  They only had one antenna on the gatehouse.  It was low and it was omni-directional.  Omni-directional means that it sends the signal out 360 degrees.  That would be fine if the antenna was in the middle of the park, but the gatehouse was in the far northwest corner.  At the very least, they should have had a directional ‘sector’ antenna to power the signal to a few more sites.  As it is, you pretty much have to take your laptop up to the gatehouse to use it.

Morro Bay gatehouse

Oh yeah – the staff had nothing to say, they just handed us a little card from SBC FreedomLink that says, “How To Connect: 1. Click Start, then Connect To, then Wireless Network Connection.  2. Choose Freedomlink, then open broswer and select usage session.”  We were about a dozen sites down from the gatehouse and we couldn’t even see the signal.

I’ll end with the only RV park during this ‘survey’ where the staff actually smiled and offered, “We have wireless Internet in the park, it’s a great thing!”  That was Bakersfield Palms and their provider is The Wireless Web.  We actually had some trouble with our satellite dish while we were there, so, at $2.50/day we used the WiFi and were thankful it was available.



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