That’s three separate questions, but I’ll address them all at once.

Cell Service, Text, & Data

Cell Service is generally available on 98% of the Great Loop Route. There are a couple of exceptions in Canada where, due to roaming contracts, you may have an issue. Also, if you go offshore or out of sight of land on the Great Lakes and cross the Gulf of Mexico, you will probably lose service. Some of the areas on the Mississippi River, and the Tenn-Tom are spotty as well because they are so remote. Aside from that, you should be fine for making phone calls and sending/receiving text messages.

I’m going to put a second Loop update early here. Starlink is a game-changer! While a bit pricy at $150 per month for a roaming contract, we found it to be well worth the price. With Internet access, you can steam TV services, we used YouTube TV so that we could get our local TV channels. Also, most cell phones today, have a internet calling feature, where if cell service is not available, it will automatically switch to the internet. There are some other caveats, which we cover in our “Starlink” blog post.

Internet falls into three categories. Internet through your mobile provider, marina Wi-Fi, and Starlink. In the US, mobile internet is okay but can be spotty in rural areas. We’ve had 1x or no coverage in many areas along the rivers and in more rural areas of the Tenn-Tom Waterway and Georgia. We had an extra mobile hot spot on the boat but rarely found an area where we needed it. Verizon and T-Mobile seem to have the best overall signals, followed by AT&T. Remember that lots of the Loop Route is rural and can be away from highways and metro areas, which is where most cell towers are, so signal strength and 5G will be limited.

Canada is another story. If you are on a US-based mobile plan, your internet use in Canada will probably be limited. We got 1.5 Gig a day of fast internet from Verizon but were then throttled back to a very slow speed. This is okay for checking email but not for streaming video (or uploading photos for a blog). We tried to get a mobile sim from a Canadian carrier, but they require a Canadian address and Credit Card, even for pre-paid plans.

Wi-Fi Internet

Marina Wi-Fi was available at most of the marinas we stayed in. The Canals (Erie, Rideau, Trent-Severn) are an exception because you stay on the lock walls, and there is no internet provided. The quality of marina wi-fi varies tremendously. Many marinas have one connection that is shared among all of the boaters and the marina office. I’m an early riser and from 5 am to 6 am I got good speeds, when the rest of the world started waking up and going online, the speed would drop right down. Also, some marinas block video streaming to keep usage down. Another factor is distance. The majority of Loopers are “Transient,” staying for just one or two nights, so they tend to put us on the outside docks to make it easy to get in and out. This means that in many cases where the wi-fi antenna is onshore, you are far from the access point. We installed a wi-fi booster on our mast, which made a huge difference! In some areas, we would give out passwords to our guest network to other boaters because we could connect when they could not!

We use the Rogue Pro DB antenna booster. It is stainless steel so can take the marine environment, it is Dual Band covering both 2.4 and 5 GHz Frequencies. (Being able to do 5GHz when available moves you to a faster, less congested antenna) It’s easy to use and very reliable. There are a bunch out there, but make sure that you get one that is made for the marine environment.


There are four options for Television on board.

  1. Digital Antenna – An external antenna mounted on your boat (most look like thick frisbees). In metro areas, they work okay, but channels are limited. Also, remember that being on the water, you are at the lowest point in an area, so signals get blocked. The price, however, is right; antennas can be under $100, and the signal is free. We found NO digital TV signals in Canada except near the US border, where we would occasionally pick up a US station. Also, you must re-scan for channels every time you move.
  2. Satellite TV – We had a KVH-M5 Satellite TV receiver on our boat with DirecTV service during our first Loop. We were able to get a good signal at pretty much every place we stayed, including Canada. Some of the considerations are: a) It is expensive. Our subscription is $80 per month. We pause it when we are not traveling to save money. Our boat came with the Satellite Antenna, but if you have to add it, its systems start at $3,000 and go up rapidly. Also, our “local channels” are from New York City, not where we are. We had to lower our mast when traveling through the canals, so if we wanted Satellite TV, we would have to raise our mast when we tied up for the night and lower it again in the morning.
  3. Streaming Television – Streaming TV is very hit or miss as it relies on a good internet connection. If you have Starlink, it works great. If you rely on marina or cell based internet services, it can be spotty and very slow. If you are going to stream through a cellular device, we found that using a tablet or phone connected to the TV with an HDMI cable worked in areas where wi-fi didn’t, as we were able to use our mobile carriers’ internet connection, which was faster than the marina wi-fi. In Canada, you will be able to watch about 15 minutes of TV before your bandwidth runs out and you get throttled back to slow speed.

    One of the issues with Steaming TV is that you will get blocked from local programming as you move around the loop. Streaming Services are Location-based, so if your home is in Florida and you are in New York, you may be unable to watch your local stations. Also, once you are in Canada, most Streaming Services like Apple TV, Netflix, Disney+, YouTube TV, and Sling will block you because you are in another country and your subscription is probably for US only. A way to get around this is to use a VPN. We use NordVPN’s SmartDNS service, which is easy to set up on your Smart TV to “appear” to still be in the US. Also, while traveling, a VPN is an excellent security tool for your Phones, Tablets, and Computers! Check out NordVPN’s special offer of up to 66% off!
  4. Cable TV – In a few marinas we stayed at, Cable TV was available on the power pedestal. You need to provide your own cable to connect to your boat/tv. With the satellite, we didn’t try it except at one marina where our satellite signal was blocked by a large building next to the marina. The quality was horrible.

If mobile connectivity is important to you, check out the Mobile Internet Resource Center, they are boaters and RV’ers who specialize in mobile internet!

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