One very common question I get about my tiny house is about internet. For the most part its exactly the same as getting internet in any home, a tiny house is a house after all, it just happens to be small.
My original plan was to have normal cable internet brought to the tiny house. This took me longer than I would have liked because it was dependent on power. You obviously need to power the modem and to do that I needed to get my solar power squared away.
With solar all setup, I called Time Warner which is the only internet provider that was available to me. I checked all the big companies, local shops and even satellite, but they have things so monopolized you literally don’t have any other choice. I loathe Time Warner, but I need internet, so I scheduled them to come out.
They came out and did a survey, they then let me know the cost to just install it: $2,500! Mainly because my tiny house sits so far back from the road. It should also be noted that the same day I got that estimate, Google announced they were coming to Charlotte to bring Google Fiber, which is fiber optic gigabit internet.
So what I decided to do is wait for Google Fiber, because I expect the install cost will be very similar and I’d give almost anything to never deal with Time Warner again. The other factor that weighed in on my decision was that come September, I will be opening a coworking space, where I will have an office and internet.
While I decided to wait, I still needed internet. So I opted for a mobile hotspot which functions off cell phone signals to get 4G internet. I considered two options:
- Verizon Jetpack 6620L
- Karma Go
These two options were pretty appealing to me for two very different reasons. The Verizon Jetpack would work well, Verizon has very good 4G coverage, so I knew I could connect almost anywhere. The Karma Go is a prepay setup with no fees, but it uses Sprint’s which has drastically less coverage, even in a city like mine. The other thing is Karma Go is a startup and they haven’t actually released their newest version of hardware and have been pushing their delivery date back for months at this point.
In the end I bought both.
I already have a contract with Verizon, so it was easy to add on. I bought the unit out right for $200 so I could stop and start service as I saw fit. When I have service it costs me $20 + data. As on this posting I get 15 gigs a month for $100. My total internet bill right now is $120. If you’re considering this, make sure you get the Jetpack 6620L, because the cheaper versions only do 4G, but not 3G, which you really need both. The 6220L does both, plus international GSM, so you can hop on a plane, buy a sim card where ever you are and just drop it in.
For the Karma Go, it cost me $100 + data with no contracts. I should note that I pre-ordered it in December and still haven’t received it (delays in their manufacturing). The Karma Go will let me load data credits on it and there aren’t fees, so I can drop a few gigs in it and just keep it in my bag just in case. I can get 10 gigs for $100, no other fees.
So far I’ve only had a chance to put the Verizon Jetpack through its paces, but it has held up to it all. I’ve had a few hiccups with it having ip address conflicts, but they are rare and easily fixed with a restart of my hotspot.
To give you an idea of data usage:
- Sending an email (w/out attachment): 100,000 emails per gig
- Surfing the web varies so widely I can’t put a number on it
- Streaming music: 10 hours per gig
- Youtube depends on the quality
- 240p: 6 hours per gig
- 360p: 4 hours per gig
- 480p: 2 hours per gig
- 720p: 1 hour per gig
- 1080p: 30 minutes per gig
- low quality: 3 hours per gig
- medium quality: 2 hours per gig
- high quality: 30-45 minutes per gig
I’ve learned some tricks to save on data. Your biggest user of data is videos. If you can control that, you can cut your bill down pretty significantly. First thing I did was turn off autoplaying videos on Facebook. You need to do this in two places.
The next thing I did was set youtube to a lower quality. This is somewhat of a pain because when on normal wifi I want full blown HD, but on mobile wifi I want low (240 or 360). To do this you go into your youtube settings and select that you have a low connect:
Those are you big wins with data usage. If you stream tv shows or movies, I’d suggest actually download them in bulk when you are on normal wifi. There are a variety of legal and illegal ways to do that, but I’m not going to go into that here.