Do Houseboats Have Internet? What Types Can They Get?


Do Houseboats Have Internet?

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In modern life, Internet is something virtually everyone uses and when we don’t have it it keeps us from doing most everything we are used to doing. 

If you are planning a houseboat vacation or are going to buy a houseboat knowing about whether the boat will have Internet is important to all of your planning. 

Do houseboats have Internet? Not all houseboats will currently have Internet but all houseboats have the capability to have it. You can get Internet on a houseboat via satellite, cell phone providers, or even via a landline when docked. 

Whether your houseboat will currently have Internet will vary from boat to boat so if you are renting a boat that’s an important question to ask before you book it. If you are buying a boat then whether it currently has internet isn’t as big of a deal as it will be up to you to add it via one of the three methods mentioned below. 

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Phone Line or Cable

What is commonly viewed as being a “phone line” is actually DSL. DSL stands for digital subscriber line and it is the way digital data (the Internet) is transmitted through phone lines. 

This type of Internet is often used by cheaper services and is commonly used by CenturyLink, Windstream, Frontier, and AT&T. The main issue with these services and virtually any internet that uses DSL is that it has far more down time than cable internet and the internet can be spotty sometimes. 

I currently use Centurylink for Internet at my house and the signal can work fine for weeks without any problems and then for weeks you can have to reset the modem multiple times a day to get consistent internet. Obviously every location will vary but I still have it for one reason… the price! At $45 a month it’s far cheaper than any other competitors in my area so we keep putting up with internet that drops randomly. 

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Cable internet is another option for your houseboat. Cable will normally have faster speeds and actually runs on coaxial cable lines just like cable tv does. It is normally far more stable of an option but the cable internet providers are normally more expensive than their DSL counterparts. 

Some of the most common cable internet providers are: Cox, Mediacom, and multiple other smaller carriers. 

Ultimately whether you can use DSL, cable, or no hardwired internet at all is dependent on the marina you are docked at. Some marinas will offer hard wired internet directly to your boat, others will have WiFi that you can connect to, and some marinas will offer no internet access at all. 

When it comes to getting hardwired internet on your boat you are really at the mercy of the marina that you choose to dock at. You will have to decide if you want to use a service that they offer or sometimes you won’t have that option at all. 

Satellite Internet 

This internet is commonly used for houses that are out in the middle of nowhere and don’t have access to traditional internet as mentioned in the first section. Satellite internet will normally have a dish (similar to Directv or Dish) that you will use to receive the internet signal. 

This dish makes it possible to have internet service anytime when you are on board your boat and won’t force you to be reliant on your marina or to do without when you are on the water. 

There are currently two major players in the satellite internet industry. Those companies are: Viasat and HughesNet. 

Satellite internet is often considerably more expensive than the hardwired options mentioned above. For example Viasat currently has 50mbps internet for $100 a month for the first 3 months and $150 a month after that. That price is 2-3x what you would pay with a hardwired service like Centurylink. 

HughesNet our boy has one speed option of 25mbps but they also have a data cap on their plans. You can choose from 10gb a month usage to 50gb a month but once you hit that limit their speeds drop to 1-3mbps. Their 10gb plan is currently $60 a month and their 50gb plan is $150. 

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If you decide satellite internet is best for you then you have to determine how much internet you currently use. I know for my family we stream virtually everything so having a monthly data cap before the speeds get ridiculously slow wouldn’t work well for us so we would choose Viasat. 

If you only use the internet for browsing, checking emails, Facebook, etc. then the cost savings with HughesNet might work best for your houseboat.

Ultimately it is important to compare your usage vs the plans that are offered before you choose the internet that you want on your boat. You certainly don’t want to choose one and then realize a month later that you use far more internet than you thought! 

Cell Phone Internet 

As technology has advanced so have the cell phone networks. What used to be a slow clunky way to send a picture message now allows us to have access to the internet virtually anywhere with the device that we carry in our pocket! 

Many cell phones now have hotspots that can be used for internet and assuming you have cell signal where you are boating this is a great way to get on your computer or tablet and check emails, browse the web etc. If you are looking to stream TV shows or movies though using your phone as a hotspot probably isn’t the best choice. 

For larger amounts of usage you will want to get a mobile hotspot. A mobile hotspot will allow you to use your cell phone provider to get internet on your houseboat and they will often have speeds that are quite fast as well. 

There are two main issues with mobile hotspots. 

First, they have data limits. Each hotspot no matter which company you choose has monthly data limits. Some companies throttle down your internet once you reach that limit while others completely shut you off once the limit is hit. 

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In the future they could certainly change this and companies could come out with unlimited plans but as it stands now you will have a specified data limit each month for the mobile hotspot. 

The second issue is you MUST have cell signal to use these services. If where you boat is way off the beaten path then you will probably not have good cell signal from anyone but Verizon (and even they don’t have signal everywhere). Verizon’s plans will cost you $80 a month for only 14gb of data too, so they are quite expensive as well. 

Using a mobile hotspot really only makes sense if you don’t stream a lot and you change vessels or locations a decent amount. For most people and situations one of the other two options mentioned above would be better. 

Conclusion 

Internet is almost a must in the society we live in today. Even if you want some time away most people will want to stream some movies or tv shows or even play some games online.

 If you use your houseboat often or live on board then one of the satellite providers is going to be the best option for you. I personally prefer Viasat since they don’t have data caps (like mobile hotspots) or throttle you after you use your data (like HughesNet and some hotspots). 

Another benefit of a satellite provider is you don’t have to worry about being way off the grid. As long as you have direct access to the sky (which you would on water) then you can get Internet. 

If you are docked a majority of the time then a landline at the marina would probably work fine for you if your marina has that as an option but not all marinas do. 

Ultimately you have to see what options are available and weigh the cost vs convenience of each option. If you only use your houseboat on holiday weekends it probably isn’t worthwhile to pay an additional monthly cost. If you live on board than paying to have internet on your houseboat is probably a worthwhile expense. 

As always 

Happy boating 

Matthew Robbs

I love the outdoors and especially spending time with my family. Whether on a boat or at the beach, my happy place is near the water.

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