The Park Service "gets it" about the importance of wifi

Discussion in 'Tech Talk' started by docj, Dec 5, 2015.

  1. docj

    docj
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    But that's my point. An RV park wouldn't survive if its electrical system was so poor that people couldn't use what they had paid for. The same thing is true of wifi in many customers' expectations. It a park advertises wifi then many of its customers expect to be able to do anything they would have done at home. If a park can't deliver that then maybe it shouldn't be so quick to offer the service. Offering something which doesn't meet customer expectations doesn't get you good reviews.

    Yes, there are still plenty of mostly older RVers who only use the internet to read email, etc., but they are quickly becoming outnumbered by RVers who reflect the population at large in that they are tied to the internet for many aspects of their lives. Many of these people have their own internet capability in the form of hotspots, etc, but don't tell them you offer free high speed wifi when all you can provide is something that only would have been adequate when people got their email through AOL! :D
     
  2. drfife

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    Bandwidth and electric amperage are not the same thing and not fair to compare as equivalent.
     
  3. docj

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    I don't think it's unfair in the slightest to compare them. A park advertises that it provides certain utilities--electricity, water, sewer, and wifi. A utility is either provided or it's not. We did stay at a park last year where all we had was a gray water drain, but the owner didn't claim that it was a full-hookup site.

    If you don't provide the "normal expectations" for that utility you shouldn't claim you do. People wouldn't like it much if their water supply was limited to half a gallon a minute at 20 psi. Neither do they like wifi that is limited to <1 Mbps.
     
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  4. RFCN2

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    Drfife is exactly right Joel. Wifi at RV parks is something with a history of only about ten - fifteen years. Electric power is decades old. The knowledge of how to supply power to rigs is fairly common. The knowledge to supply wifi is way rarer.

    I would say someone is a bandwidth hog if the supply is limited and they jam it up with their devices. Watching TV or videos with the internet is very new. Most parks are not set up for for everyone who shows up has one or two web needing devices.

    In my opinion in April 2016 seeing high speed wifi advertised means email and maybe a few short videos. I don't think it means TVs in rigs streaming Netflix.

    I don't really know what the economics are for providing a bulk quantity of bandwidth. I am sure the cost varies a lot depending on if the RV park has access to cable, dsl, or has to use a sat dish. I rarely use park wifi at all any more. I used to, but bandwidth hogs have spoiled it.
     
  5. RFCN2

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    Full hookups to me is water, power, and sewer, not water, power, sewer, and wifi. I don't consider wifi a utility, yet. But I will acknowledge that wifi is such a new thing that definitions are unsettled. You seem very set in your version and I am in mine. Enough said from my side.
     
  6. docj

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    With all due respect, if that's what you think people use the internet for in 2016 then we very different understandings of the issue. Email isn't even something that anyone with a smart phone needs to bother using a campground wifi for. People who still check email on a computer once a day aren't the ones demanding greater wifi bandwidth.
     
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  7. drfife

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    Then expect to pay more for campground fees.

    I don't expect, nor want to pay for 20 MB download speeds.
     
  8. docj

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    Although it is pure speculation on my part, I wouldn't be surprised to see parks begin to migrate to a "tiered" WiFi service model in which a "basic wifi" is provided as part of the site fee with a "high speed wifi" being provided as an extra cost feature for those who want it. There would be a specific number of high speed wifi "slots" and you might be able to reserve one at the time you made your reservation. If a park was really creative it could even rent high speed slots in ~4-8 hour increments so families could stream a movie or the kids could play interactive online games.

    Sure, this type of wifi setup requires upfront investment in the software to run it and might necessitate having at least one or two trained employees on staff who could ensure that it ran smoothly, but a park that had such an amenity could have a distinct marketing advantage over its competitors and could generate a significant revenue stream from it.

    At many RV parks, high quality digital over-the-air TV has reduced the need to maintain cable TV systems, many of which did not include much more than the major networks and a few local cable channels. Park owners may choose to eliminate the costs associated with cable TV and use those savings to upgrade their wifi. The net cost to the average customer may not change much, if at all, if that approach is used.
     
  9. RFCN2

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    Joel - I would be very happy to just be able to book reservations at most RV parks via the internet like you can do Holiday Inns. Right now that is not the case.

    I am very familiar with the internet connectivity issue. I have had an internet business for about 15 years and when we travel by RV having internet has been a priority for me. I kept my internet satellite going for years at pretty high cost before Verizon got good at having high speed data in most areas. I have kept one of our Verizon lines with unlimited internet at a fairly high cost.

    We have been using cell phone data for TV for about 2 1/2 years in our RV. We also use DVD's and the antenna. In my opinion it is unrealistic to expect RV Parks to provide every guest with high speed wifi for free. In rural areas it might be near impossible at any cost.

    I would think wifi might become a tiered system like you suggest. I would think they would charge for the amount of data in gigs though not speed. Providers charge for data by the amount. We pay 55 dollars at home for 250 gigs of data that is delivered by cable at about 60-70 megs per second. If we moved a mile further out of town where there is no cable the cost would be a lot higher and the speed would be a lot slower. Many rural RV parks have to use sat internet from someone like Hughes or Via Sat. And those download speeds are about 20, but up is much slower than cable. Plus latency is about 500 compared to 7-15 for my cable.
     
  10. jerry T160

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    Yep, that's the main problem with campground wifi. In lieu of wifi we are installing a cell phone signal amplifier at out local State Park contact station since our present signal is marginal. Hopefully this will attract a few more campers that need (or want) electronic access.
     
  11. Ralphie in NM

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    Joel - High speed is dependent on demand. Same as electrical "brownouts" in large cities in the summer when the demand is too high. If you think of bandwidth as amperage, then park owners do put limits on on AC power usage. You don't get unlimited amperage. You pay only for 30 and you blow a breaker if you try to pull more. If you want more, you can pay for more. Many companies may be willing to run fiber to your property for a fee. That doesn't mean they can do it right away. I don't see how to get enough bandwidth over DSL for a good size campground. I know in my neighborhood, the phone company offered to extend DSL if we a certain number of neighbors committed to subscribe and we raised $5,000 to have it installed. We waited until it eventually reached our neighborhood some years later. This could be the problem with some campgrounds being limited on the bandwidth they can purchase. I see paying for different levels of bandwidth the solution for campgrounds that can provide it just like it works at home. I do not have unlimited bandwidth and there is a limit to how much I can get from my provider (currently 40 Mbps on DSL).
     
  12. docj

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    The first rule of internet discussion is "don't underestimate your opponent because he may know more about the topic than you do."

    I fully understand how the speed of an internet connection is affected by the available bandwidth and the usage. You might not have noticed that I work for WiFiRanger, one of the leaders in "WiFi As WAN" routers/amplifiers/repeater targeted at the RV marketplace.

    Underpinning my ability to understand the concepts I bring to the party a PhD in Physics from Harvard. That, in itself, doesn't mean I understand a single thing about networking, but it does mean that I have at least a "rudimentary" understanding of electromagnetic theory and all that it entails. (And I won't bore you with the fact that my thesis adviser was a Nobel laureate.)

    The fact that you're talking about DSL is indicative of the fact that you haven't really explored the problem in depth. DSL is primarily for residences and small-medium sized commercial establishments. To really handle the needs of a larger RV park you're most likely to want a number of T3 lines. I recently priced out the cost of multiple T3's in a major metro area just to see what the basic installation would cost. Although the dollar amounts sounded high at first, when you considered them from the perspective of "per site per day" costs they weren't all that bad.

    When considering how much bandwidth is necessary to support a park, you need to avoid making simplistic assumptions that everyone needs at least 3-5 Mbps so a 100 site park needs 300-500 Mbps service. In reality, even if everyone is concurrently streaming the effective load is less than a simple multiple. Furthermore, it is reasonable to assume that not everyone is streaming 100% of the time. There are algorithms for calculating the necessary bandwidth the same way there are algorithms for calculating how large the electrical

    Assume that a CG has 100 sites, so there are 3,000 "campsite nights" per month. Assume a 50% occupancy factor (which, by our recent experiences is low for nice parks) then a $1 wifi surcharge would generate $1,500/mo towards better wifi. Even without achieving other cost reductions by doing something like ending cable TV service, you don't have to add more than a couple of dollars in order to get a significant payment to cover the cost of wifi. Sure, you'd have to negotiate some sort of seasonal variation in most locations, but that's a contractual issue, not a technical one. With "better" RV parks already costing $35-45/night in most parts of the country I doubt that a few dollar increase would raise many eyebrows if it resulted in really good internet capability.

    I suggest that at least some park owners who cry "I can't get more bandwidth" haven't really investigated all possible alternatives. We happen to be familiar with a private park in a remote location where the owner was dissatisfied with the best DSL that her phone company could provide so she currently is getting her internet via a "custom WISP". It's costing her a lot of $$ per month but she's proud of the fact that she can provide high speed internet at all her sites. Her wifi is good enough to stream on without affecting other campers; I know because I've done it.

    Of course, one example does not prove the more general case, but I contend solving the wifi issue is something that park owners need to wrestle with or they should seriously consider not providing any wifi at all. Providing a service that doesn't meet your customers expectations is poor business practice, plain and simple. And telling people that "our wifi is for email only" is tantamount to telling them that you don't understand what today's families use the internet for and you will soon find yourself undercut by a competitor who does understand what families want.
     
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  13. Ralphie in NM

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    Joel - After implying that I brought a knife to a gun fight, I clearly see your points. Didn't mean to offend. Just trying to contribute, not be an opponent.
    In a large metro area, a campground probably does have access to better facilities than one in a more rural setting. I mentioned DSL because I suppose that is the most available option. I certainly can't disagree that some park owners haven't investigated all possible alternatives. I think that, in general, the cost of getting the facilities out to the campground for the appropriate transport has a bearing on this argument.
    A campground advertising high speed internet seems meaningless to me. They may be told they are getting that from their provider but that doesn't mean they can provide that to each campsite. I suppose having free WIFI is a necessity in a list of amenities. Having good WIFI, not so much.
    People do more than check their emails. Even if not streaming HD movies, they may be playing online games, streaming audio, etc.
    I think the trend to online TV like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and others is changing the landscape. Those users should have an option to pay for a higher level of service as you suggested.
    I agree that campground owners should try to do better but I don't think they will until it becomes a standard in the industry to provide better WIFI. Demand might make that happen.
    It would be nice if some owners understood that sticking one antenna up by the office doesn't cover the whole park. I would be willing to pay an extra fee for better WIFI, maybe.
     
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  14. docj

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    Agreed. Smart owners will see the demand and act accordingly. Others will ignore customer desires at their own risk.
     
  15. wtravlr1

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    When we set up our park wifi 5 years ago, campers came with generally with one computer. Now in a few short years, an RV shows up with each person having a smart phone, two computers and a tablet. We could charge for our wifi but choose not to. We can provide fast reliable service, except for downloading large amounts of data like hd movies. In the last year we find the challenge to be suppling data to smart phone, most people do not know that a phone will push data automatically as long as it is on and connected to internet. Smart phones we have found use a surprising amount of data, and can when viewing hd movies use as much as a computer. Our system was set up as a service for RVers to pay bills, see what attractions are in the area, make other camp ground, as well as other travel plans. We run into a problem when people want to use the device as an entertainment center, this puts a strain on our finite bandwidth resource. As a park, and since we do not charge for the wifi we have "terms of service" that one agrees to before signing on, Part of that is not to download movies. We can and do monitor usage per wifi device. As long as the camper is operating within the terms of service there will be fast internet. Cell phone cell companies sell bandwidth by the gig. Other cell companies that advertise unlimited bandwidth will throttle after a certain amount of usage. No free lunch out there in the interweb. We could charge and supply unlimited bandwidth but people do not want to pay, and will choose a park with free wifi even though it is slow and many times unusable.
     
  16. docj

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    I have no issue with your approach but I wonder if all customers realize that watching YouTube videos or Skyping their grandkids is just another way of streaming video. The effect on the system is the same.

    Have you ever considered implementing a "2-tier" approach in which you create high speed, high data limit connections for those willing to pay for it? I wouldn't be surprised if a significant percentage of family weekenders would do this so the kids could stay connected and not bug their parents because they are couldn't stay on the Internet. I realize there would be a startup cost but it would probably be limited to software since you could carve these channels out of your existing backhaul. JMO
     
  17. Andy R

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    Thanks for sharing your campground owners perspective. It's wild to think about how fast things have changed and how many computers people are traveling around with. It wasn't long ago (late 90s) where most of the people you saw traveling with a laptop were business folks. Things sure change fast!

    I understand network and many routers have a limit of 256 IP addresses. So even a DHCP server (thing that leases out the IP addresses) has a finite number which could quickly reach capacity at a campground.

    When it comes to bandwidth, there are solutions that can manage the sharing of the connection (bandwidth) evenly so one person is not using more than their fair share. I hope these are built into the commercial systems you all probably use. I know some high end home systems can prioritize based on request type (video, web pages, etc). For example, it should be able to keep the web pages faster and slow down video when needed for web pages.

    One area where smart phones burn up bandwidth is the auto install of new app updates. Sometimes those apps can be huge (hundreds of megabytes or maybe even bigger than a gigabyte). So when they connect their phones, these start happening in the background and they are a bandwidth killer. If configured properly, you might be able to tell the router to make upgrades very low priority so they would be less of an issue.

    Ideally would be free basic connection and then paid upgrades to faster service. That way those willing to pay can help cover their costs and those who want it as a free amenity just get slower access (seems fair).
     
  18. wtravlr1

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    We use a system made by Meraki (Cisco) Our system is a mesh system. We have 10 access points in our 1/10 mile square park. (trees) each access point is capable of handing out several hundred private ip address. We have four gateways and six repeaters any repeater can associate with any gateway. The repeaters poll the gateways each second for the best interweb access and then will change to whatever gateway is the best. As far as the user is concerned all they see is one network and they are handed off from aerial to aerial as they move though the park seamlessly. As I said it is a cloud based mesh, self healing system. Our IP private capacity is probably over 2000 IP address that we can had out. Our campground has 180 sites. I think we are covered. We have a basic system that is not sold anymore, the new Meraki systems you can set bandwidth for different devices types, as well as individual clients. If we upgraded to the new Meraki MR 72 with dual radios we could really let everyone have as much interweb as they could use. But it gets expensive for the units, yearly licensing fees and gateway access fees. But with enough money all is possible.
     
  19. docj

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    What kind of backhaul do you have serving the park? Who provides it?
     
  20. Andy R

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    Wow, that sounds like a cool setup. Thanks for sharing some technical insight into how a mesh campground network works. It's neat to see you understand so well. It's probably voodoo to many owners who are not tech savvy.
     

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