How Tiny House Residents Cope With Not Having Internet

tiny house in a clearing in the woods

Getty Images / Imaginima

Tiny homesteaders often chose to live small so they can live big. Whether it’s an actual very small home, a tricked out rail car or a revamped RV, bus or boat, a shared goal for many who call them home is to stake a claim in a remote area or travel the country. As you might expect, there aren’t a lot of cable hookups on these routes where those living wild and free can connect to the internet for communication or entertainment. 

Yet this is a resourceful bunch, and people living tiny have found ways to cut the cord, get online and stay connected to work, family, friends and friends. No matter the size of where you call home, you can use these tips as well.

Mobile Hotspots Everywhere

One of the easiest ways to get online with no cords attached is to use a hotspot through your mobile phone carrier. That’s how Floshea Harrigan and her family, who live on the road in an RV, handle things. ”We get unlimited data and pay monthly,” she says. “We occasionally have spotty service depending on where we are, but overall, the signal is strong.” 

child and baby

@floshea_harrigan / Instagram

Rely on Coffee Shops

Ryan Mitchell, founder of The Tiny Life, spent nine years living in 150 square feet before recently moving to a regular-sized home with his girlfriend in North Carolina, and he has made fair use of hotspots as well. However, he does warn that such a connection won’t work for everyone. 

“Hotspots were pretty stable in my tiny,” he says. “I did most of my work at a coffee shop or something like that.” Mitchell says a hot spot worked fine for him because most of his work wasn’t data heavy. He mostly was writing or emailing and says what he did on his computer was still OK, even if the speed would dip from time to time.  

“If you want a video Zoom call or to stream video, it can be hit or miss,” he says. “Different work lends itself to different kinds of internet networks. If you are sending out video for your job, it can be more of a challenge. The volume of the files is so much larger.”

Download in Advance

Mitchell offers a hot tip for people who might not have enough bandwidth at home to stream their favorites shows using a hotspot. “One thing I’ve been doing lately is occasionally going to a coffee shop to work for the day as a change of scenery, and while I’m there, I’ll take advantage of the download feature that Netflix and other services offer,” he says. This feature allows you to download some episodes or a movie on your device and then watch them at your leisure without using any bandwidth at all. “I’ve found this to be a really great way to keep data usage low while still watching the shows I love.”

Using a hotspot to connect to wifi at home can sometimes require a little legwork. “If it’s just voice calls, it’s pretty simple, too,” Mitchell says. And his tips and methods can apply to any house in any kind of city and town. 

ryan

Ryan Mitchell

Run Speed Tests

“If you are living more rural, I would make sure to go out to property and do a speed test over the air to make sure you get a good enough signal, but cities are generally going to have a good carrier,” he says. “It’s so difficult to get internet if you move home to a location that just doesn’t get it. It’s even more important than before with people working from home."

Not only did Mitchell use a hotspot in his more-remote tiny home, he did so completely off the grid. “I haven’t had a power bill since going solar,” he said. After recouping the cost of the solar panels, Mitchell figures he has had a total savings of $30,000 in electric bills. He harnesses the power of the sun, then uses an inverter to convert it all into electricity and send it back into the panel that controls the outlets and lights in his home. 

Try a Service

So what if hotspots are just a no-go in your area? Don’t fret. There are other ways you can connect. One of the newest ways is to use satellite internet such as Starlink. Mitchell says he has heard a lot of good things about the service, which is owned by Elon Musk. There are other satellite internet providers out there, though Starlink is the hot topic at the moment.