Internet Access from the Tiny House

Marc Bilodeau/ Automating, Planning, Tiny House

Although not impossible, it’s becoming more difficult to live without the Internet. Today, it’s fully integrated into socializing, shopping, learning, entertainment, and much more. As of 2018, over half of the world has access to the Internet.

However, a tiny house has some challenges due to their legal status. Regardless, there are several options available to access the Internet from the comfort of a tiny house.

Broadband by Cable Providers

Broadband is one of the most common ways people access the Internet. Since cable television is still popular, cable providers bundle Internet access, cable television, and landlines into different offerings. The prices vary by provider and package. However, broadband’s growth has been sporadic in recent years. This is likely due to increasing costs and widespread use of smartphones. Regardless, those that don’t move around and enjoy traditional cable beyond streaming services, such as Hulu, Netflix, and YouTube, will find this option appealing.

Unfortunately, there may be issues signing up for access from a cable provider. The major cable providers such as Comcast, Charter Communications, and Cox Communications require a legal address. In most cases, a tiny house isn’t a legal structure. Therefore, it cannot have an address of its own. Although, there may be exceptions and loopholes, knowing the local zoning will determine if a tiny house can have a legal address. If so, the Internet, cable television, and landline phone services are available.

Satellite Internet

In recent years, Satellite Providers have been consolidating or discontinuing services. Today, there are generally two main players in the satellite space. Viastat and Hughesnet not only provide Internet access, they also offer television and landline services.

Satellite Access
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The advantage of satellite services is that it’s available in rural areas where mobile or cable providers aren’t available. This option is attractive for those that live in remote areas. Generally, pricing is reasonable for those who aren’t heavy data consumers.

Unfortunately, it’s generally slower than typical mobile 4G LTE plans. Furthermore, plans have data caps. These aren’t hard caps, which means access becomes unavailable once the cap is reached. However, exceeding the data cap could mean extra fees and slower connections until the next billing cycle.

Mobile Data Plans

Mobile accounts for over half of all Internet traffic. Furthermore, the major mobile providers such as Verizon Wireless, AT&T, and T-Mobile continue to improve their coverage and invest in technologies like 5G which promises better speed and performance.

Mobile Phone Plan
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Regardless, the current technology is good enough for most users. However, those who play games or stream lots of content may find their connection slows after a certain amount of data usage. Like Satellite Providers, they won’t stop access. Although, it will be noticeably slower until the next billing cycle.

Unfortunately, there is limitations on other devices like laptops or IoT sensors. Most basic data plans provide access to the smartphone only. However, most providers have other services to provide access to these devices through tethering.

Tethering

Tiny House Tethering
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Tethering is sharing the Internet connection of a mobile device with a laptop or computer. In short, a smartphone acts as a wireless access point for other devices. Most modern smartphones support this feature. Although, it usually comes with an extra monthly cost and data limitations. In these cases, exceeding the data cap will result in additional fees. Therefore, using tethering works well for those who are casual bandwidth users.

It’s important to know how much those other devices use the Internet, because they can easily rack up additional fees. However, mobile providers have a solution to this problem. They provide Internet services through WiFi Hotspots.

WiFi Hotspots

Mobile providers have services for other devices without tethering to a smartphone. WiFi Hotspots provide Internet access through a router. Connectivity and setup is similar to cable providers except a coaxial connection isn’t required. The key difference is that Internet access is available as long as there is coverage by the mobile provider.

Tiny House Internet Access

Depending on the plan, hotspots have additional monthly fees. Plans will vary from a set amount of bandwidth to unlimited data per month. In short, hotspots are a good option for those who have other devices and move around frequently.

Sharing Internet Access

The easiest and most affordable option is to share a connection with the permission of the homeowner. This only works if the tiny house shares the property with a traditional home. All that’s necessary is to connect through a wireless access point, or run a cables from the house to the tiny house.

Free Internet
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However, it’s important to read the Internet provider’s terms of service. They may not allow a customers to share a connection. By doing so, the homeowner may be violating the terms of service.

My Tiny House Internet

While my tiny house is currently beside my garage, I access the Internet by sharing my home’s WiFi. Thankfully, I do have permission from the homeowner (me). However, when the tiny house is on the road, I’ll need to rely on another means to access the Internet. In these cases, I will tether my IoT devices and laptop through my smartphone using my mobile data plan.

Internet Options for a Tiny House

All the sensors in the tiny house like the webcam, Magic Mirror, and Neurio rely on the Internet to send data. Therefore, I will add a wireless access point that sends the data through a tethered connection on my smartphone.

For now, tethering through my mobile data plan should work fine. If I ever need to expand access, I’ll likely add WiFi Hotspot services through AT&T Wireless.

Conclusion

There are a number of choices available to access the Internet. However, what options are available depends on the individual’s situation. Careful consideration and planning should account how often and where one will access the Internet.

For casual users on the go, or who occasionally stream content, using a mobile data plan works well. However, those who are heavy streamers, gamers, or enjoy cable television may want to look into plans that have unlimited data without any caps. On the other hand, anyone who will be outside mobile and broadband coverage may be limited to satellite services. Fortunately, there are plenty of options available to meet most people’s needs.

The world of access changes frequently, because providers are constantly vying for our business. There may be a plan that’s better and more affordable. Therefore, it’s important to review what providers offer from time to time.