One outcome of our little road trips is an impromptu market survey of a lesser known segment of the wireless Internet market: Wi-Fi in campgrounds. When we last took a lengthy trip late last fall, only one of eight campgrounds - and that a high-end 'resort' type place - knew what WiFi was, and had it running. While I swore off blogging and news sites for this trip, we did try to keep our net connectivity for personal e-mail and a couple of hobby sites.
On the trip just completed - eight months after our last - seven of nine commercial campgrounds both knew what wireless Internet was, and had some story. Of those, four offered a free service of some sort, though one was down at the time of our visit - substituted with a free public terminal. The rates on the three pay sites ranged from a reasonable $2 per night and $15 per week, to a rapacious $5 for 4 hours. RF signal quality was actually quite good from all we tried, though the IP service delivery was highly variable, as measured in terms of latency, DNS drops, and burstiness of throughput. Service quality had no apparent correlation to the business model - free or pay - based on this small sample.
Obviously this inherently mobile sector of the market has been adopting WiFi at a great pace in the last year, though not in any systematic fashion. This is another piece of validation - if one were needed - that mobile connectivity is reaching a wider and wider slice of the consumer market.
Before I get a spate of RV WiFi carrier plans, though, let me say that I see the consolidating forces on this market segment as very limited. Off the shelf turnkeys for campgrounds are easy to obtain - just google ' RV WiFi'. Obviously, many campground owners are coping with the operational issues more or less successfully. Also, what would seem to an outsider to be a driver of consolidation into networks - the movement of touring RVers from place to place - is less than one might think. A large and more stable portion of campground owner's income is often from fulltimers, seasonals and snow birds, who have much longer periods of residence at a particular site. Keeping the loyalty of these customers with a free WiFi amenity may be a good deal more important than offering a paid, portable network subscription to the touring audience. (For anyone curious about this market, there an ethnography on RVers, believe it or not.)
Details, for RVers who wander in via search:
Sierra Trails RV Park, Mojave, CA, free service, good quality
J&H RV Park, Flagstaff, AZ, paid service via network, $15/wk, good quality
USA RV Park, Gallup, NM, free service, good quality
Dolores River RV Park, Dolores, CO, no clue - "try over in Durango"
Goulding's Monument Valley RV Park, Monument Valley, UT, free but down, one free terminal
Kaibab Camper Village, Jacob Lake, AZ, no clue - one phone line for entire campground
Ruby's Inn RV Park & Campground, Byrce Canyon, UT, free in lobby of adjoining Lodge, good quality
KOA of Ely, Ely, NV, $2/night, erratic quality
Silver City RV Resort, Minden, NV, $5/4 hr ripoff, quality untested