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Building a Town-Wide LAN? 304

Posted by Cliff
from the just-think-of-the-lan-parties-you-could-have dept.
The Mainframe asks: "My town (Hanover, NH, home of Dartmouth College, the Dartmouth Medical School, and Dartmouth-Hitchcock Hospital, non-college population approx. 9K people, double that with the college) is conducting a feasibility study on building a town network. They'd like to deliver fiber to every home within town limits. This fiber will carry (certainly) the internet and (probably) cable-like television programming access. They're estimating that it will cost $40 per month per household. I just filled out and returned my survey (one sent to every Hanover household) in which they asked a number of questions like: 'What would your primary use of this service be?' and 'Would you be willing to pay $40 a month for this service?'. What reasons, other than the obvious benefit of having fiber to one's house, can you think of for making this kind of commitment to the infrastructure?

"I would imagine that there will be an enormous secondary benefit because we will become an attractive town to technically inclined people and businesses. At the same time, Is this a good idea? I, personally, think it would be wonderful, but (as an IT major) the technical challenges of laying fiber and maintaining a network to serve 9000+ citizens are mind boggling. Policy decisions, network abuse, outages, spam, filtering (god forbid), all nightmares that will require a dedicated, 24/7 network maintenance team. Any network engineers out there have any juicy morsels from their work on large networks?

I know the town manager, so I'd like to feed this discussion to her, after moderation has taken its toll (probably at a level of +3), so she can see what the technical community thinks."

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Building a Town-Wide LAN?

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  • Clear TOS (Score:5, Informative)

    by chrisseaton (573490) on Monday April 14, 2003 @07:18PM (#5732047) Homepage
    I think you should lay down a clear TOS. With all the trouble recently, you should make everything transparent from the start.
    • Re:Clear TOS (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Zaak (46001)
      I think you should lay down a clear TOS. With all the trouble recently, you should make everything transparent from the start.

      Exactly true. One of the things that ought to be specified in the TOS is how much traffic for how much money. Don't say unlimited unless you really mean unlimited.

      My suggestion would be a base cost which includes a certain amount of traffic allowance (which a typical home user would not exceed) plus a cost per additional megabyte. Having email reminders at certain traffic amounts
      • Re:Clear TOS (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Alien Being (18488)
        And there's no reason why the cap shouldn't be applicable to the base allowance. Allow the user to budget his bytes over the month.

        Let's say they allow 30G/month. They divide it into 1G/day and increase the cap each day. The user would have the option of dipping into tomorrow's allowance. So if I'm offline on the 1st of the month, I have 2G to play with the next day. OTOH, if I dl a bunch of ISOs on the 1st, I'll have 1G/day for the rest of the month.

        This would give the user a way to manage the byte
    • Re:Clear TOS (Score:3, Informative)

      If the network is correctly managed, there should be no problem.

      If P2P file sharing becomes a problem, KaZaA and any other ports (other than FTP and HTTP) transmitting too much data can simply be set to a lower priority.

      I think a clear TOS is right on the money. People don't have time to read 20 pages or whatever. Make the TOS one or two pages. It can say things like "If your internet usage excedes an average of 2 MB/s per month, your connection will be set at lower priority (if we face bandwidth const
    • Re:Clear TOS (Score:5, Insightful)

      by farnsworth (558449) on Monday April 14, 2003 @11:09PM (#5733214)
      I think you should lay down a clear TOS

      Uhm, this requires a *ton* of thought. The scenario of "a township setting up communication infrastructure" is 180 degrees from "an isp offers cool new service". The asker's town should absolutely seek legal advice on this. Since they are an elected government, they have an obligation to every citizen that a corporation does not have.

      When they shut down quake servers because of bandwidth issues, all of a sudden all those "it's their network, they can do what they want!" arguments are completely moot. The network will be (I think) de facto owned equally by all. In any case, a government should not simply "lay down a TOS" without completely understanding what that means.

      Read about the legality of putting in public toilets in NYC for a quasi-similar issue. I'm sure an amatuer can find other good case law, too.

    • Re:Clear TOS (Score:2, Insightful)

      by jdray (645332)
      Write the TOS with language that will stand the test of (at least a few years') time. Current standards for bandwidth usage will probably seem restrictive before you know it, and today's hot filesharing apps that have their ports blocked will be passe and unused next year. The language of the TOS should reflect an understanding of these things and be in terms general enough to embrace the future without leaving the network open to abuse.

      There are some things that will definitely stand the test of time,

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 14, 2003 @07:20PM (#5732055)
    I believe they have a community internet/cable company, providing some sort of broadband, and I think it's fiber. It is also a college town, of the small liberal arts type. I'm sure googling will give you some info on their setup and history.
  • by jpnews (647965) on Monday April 14, 2003 @07:20PM (#5732060)
    I hope no one is making high-level decisions based on the average slashdot thread. It could be the most expensive mistake of your ever shortening career.
    • by King_TJ (85913) on Monday April 14, 2003 @10:22PM (#5733049) Journal
      Really? And why, pray tell, is the combined intelligence and wisdom of this "community" any less valuable a resource than any other survey?

      I mean, sure - if you want to decide whether or not a town-wide broadband rollout is feasible, the first thing to do is poll the potential users in that community.

      Assuming this task is on the "to do" list (or was already completed), getting additional feedback from slashdot seems like a worthwhile endeavour.

      The value in Slashdot largely comes from not necessarily having to read the "average thread" anyway. Thanks to the ability to moderate posts, it's easy to filter anything except for the exceptionally high-rated comments (or at least pay more attention to +4 and +5 rated comments).
    • by Glonoinha (587375) on Monday April 14, 2003 @11:45PM (#5733377) Journal
      I think you are vastly overestimating the percentage of people eager to upgrade. In my last apartment I lived pretty much in the outskirts of town, it was my apartment complex (22 buildings with 36 apartments apiece) with two nursing homes and a fire department as the only neighbors. We had a dedicated cablemodem line for our comples with another line they can add if we managed to throttle the first one. It was complete heaven as I was one of about 10 renters that actually used it - most of the time I had the entire 1.544Mb/s line to myself. I could easily move 600 MB (pretty much a full CD) per hour sustained.

      Believe it or not, that was the selling factor for moving me into the apartment in the first place, and I couldn't believe that my entire neighborhood wasn't plugged in 24x7. Most of them couldn't care less, a few didn't want to pay $45 a month for that new-fangled interweb to view web sights, and a few were on dial-up (no joke.)

      In a college community I would suspect a higher number of people that want in on it, but rather than not enough people wanting it I would pretty much bet the other extreme, 9,000 different connections all running P2P nodes and all wanting to run 1Mb/s sustained connections 24x7. At that point the bottleneck isn't the last mile - it is the central office's connection the the rest of the world. If you ran regular cablemodems to every house in your town they could STILL throttle the connection so running fiber is just begging them to /. the pitiful OC-192 connection between the central office downtown and the rest of the web :)

      Cable is cheaper, I would imagine. Terminating the cable is also something your average cable monkey can do, terminating 9,000 fiber connections isn't going to be cheap. Wouldn't surprise me if you already had appropriate cable run the last mile already. Priced 9,000 ports of fiber optic switches lately?

      Fiber is cool, but what do you honestly gain? Well you don't need to do it again in 3 years when the central office actually can handle 9,000 users wanting to run a full megabit per second sustained 24x7 ...

      If you honestly think the suscriber base will go for it, and then if you think they will do it without overdoing it, does it make sense to run fiber instead of cable? Short term, probably not. Long term ... jpnews is probably right :)
  • Oh, I'd love it! You could have multiplayer FPS games with your neighbors at LAN speeds! What kind of connection to the rest of the 'net would there be, though? A 100 MB/s connection to your neighbors isn't much good if there's only a 1 MB/s connection to the rest of the internet. Could a non-edu get connected to Internet2? That would be even better!
    • I'd kill for 1MB/sec to the 'net. Even 1Mb/sec would be twice as fast as my DSL. Geez, kids these days... We used our 14.4s, and we liked it!
    • Re:Gimme! (Score:3, Insightful)

      by CAIMLAS (41445)
      If you've got a LAN with over 9 thousand hosts on it, many of them belonging to college-aged students, you have little, if any, need for the rest of the internet at high download speeds. Why do you need those high download speeds? Porn, warez, movies, and music. What do most college students have in plethora? Porn, warez, movies, and music.

      The main difference between this LAN and a P2P network is that you're more likely to know the person, and they're less likely to throttle you back or limit your leeching
  • by yppiz (574466) on Monday April 14, 2003 @07:21PM (#5732070) Homepage
    Dartmouth could cover a fairly large area with a few dozen wireless access points, rather than running fiber to every home.

    --Pat / zippy@cs.brandeis.edu

    • The problem with wireless is its relative slow speeds, unreliability, and insecurity as compared to a fiber network. To do this there would have to AP's and antennae's outdoors in order to acheive good speeds, and just think of how easy it would be for lightning to wipe one of those out. Besides, we know that this project would be feasable with wireless, I'm interested in seeing if it can be done with fiber.
    • by theoddball (665938) <theoddball@gm a i l .com> on Monday April 14, 2003 @07:58PM (#5732376)
      We do.

      The college has a policy that every square foot of campus should, in theory, be covered by fuzzy blanket of wireless signal. And I mean fuzzy in every sense--feel good, and the fact that sitting here in my dorm room I get no signal.

      The trick with this is that to cover all college land, we bleed over into the town a *lot*. And since it's an unsecured network (anybody who knows the SSID can join), a not-completely-insignificant portion of the town that surrounds the school gets free internet access.

      As for "a few access points", the number's well over a thousand just for the school, if memory serves right. The town (small as it is) is still way bigger than the school. Wireless APs are *not* cheap, especially ones that will mesh well into a large network.

      Something tells me this network is going to end up tied to the college, using BlitzMail (Dartmouth's own proprietary email system, which eats it.) Of course, speaking as a student, that wouldn't be all bad...there are things at every school that can't be accessed outside their LAN, and that'd make it easier to live off campus.

      On the upside, maybe that means they'd finally upgrade our non-I2 backbone. Heh.

      Closing thought: Strange that the first I hear of a local issue is via Slashdot...

      • by kaszeta (322161)
        The trick with this is that to cover all college land, we bleed over into the town a *lot*. And since it's an unsecured network (anybody who knows the SSID can join), a not-completely-insignificant portion of the town that surrounds the school gets free internet access.

        Hey, I *like* being able to surf from the Dirt Cowboy (the only coffee shop in Hanover, for you non -Upper Valley of VT/NH folks) for free using Dartmouth's 802.11 network. And to think that when I travel Starbuck's wants to charge me...

    • maybe hire the NetHere people to install a wireless LAN. NetHere re-launched Ricochet and it's gotta be cheaper than running fiber to every home.

      Sounds like a win-win situation. NetHere gets a customer serious about networking and the town gets a less expensive installation.

      LoB
  • External Connection? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ibpooks (127372)
    What kind of out-of-town bandwidth will be provided? Sure, 100 Mbps to the local POP would be cool, but really useless if the whole place has to share a T1. Would out-of-town traffic be limited on a per-connection basis, or will I have to suffer with slow page loads because my 31337 neighbor wants to run a 64 user Wolfenstein server?
  • My little town (less than 500) just had one heck of a backlash when we went to municipal (read: mandatory, billed with your water) garbage collection. If half of our citizens felt it was their constitutional right to pile garbage on the back lawn, I can only imagine how we'd do with muni internet.
  • by snillfisk (111062) <mats@NOSPAm.lindh.no> on Monday April 14, 2003 @07:23PM (#5732085) Homepage
    How about teaming up with some local ISP for the internet-part? The technical divison of the town could take care of running the fiber network while most of the other issues you mentioned could be outsourced to another company which actually know what they're doing.. My former university (~30k students) ran a city (150k citizens) wide network covering most of their installments in the city and they made it work like a charm. I'm suspecting that this was in cooperation with the local telco, but its absolutly doable.
    • by RealAlaskan (576404) on Monday April 14, 2003 @08:16PM (#5732490) Homepage Journal
      How about teaming up with some local ISP for the internet-part?

      How about teaming up with a BUNCH of local ISPs?

      I think that the obvious answer here is to separate the ``own and operate transmission lines'' function from the ``provide services over the transmission lines'' function.

      The transmission lines are a natural monopoly. There isn't going to be any competition there, no matter what (That's the standard answer, anyway), so might as well let the gov't maintain ownership and control. You could still contract out maintenance work, if you're worried about inefficiency. You could keep it in-house if you're worried about getting public employee union support. If you let ownership go to a private company, you run the considerable risk of setting the wrong incentives and getting a nasty mess.

      Providing billing, internet access and/or cable programming over the fiber is clearly NOT a natural monopoly. The city could make the fiber open to any provider of any service. It would be a bit like the Telcos opening their lines to competition, except that there would be no incentive for the city to backstab the providers. It would be a lot like what you're suggesting, except that you wouldn't be giving a monopoly to any one business. Why not give out the monopoly? Think of the telephone company: ``We don't care ... we don't have to. We're the phone company.''

      To summarize, what I'm suggesting is that the city could operate fiber lines, and lease them to private businesses. There would be no billing from city to individuals. Private enterprise could use those lines to offer any service that folks would pay for, just as privately owned trucks, busses and cars run on publicly owned and operated roads. Private business would bill individuals for services rendered. Since no business would have a monopoly, all businesses would have to give individuals their money's worth, or see their customers take a hike.

      You could have the reliable infrastructure that comes from a monopoly provider, and the attentive service and product innovations which come from fierce competition.

      • one suggestion about the stringing of the lines... you might want to contract that out to a local company. that way, the massive investment in infrastructure stays in the local economy. that's *if* there is a likely local canidate for that sort of project available.
    • In Canberra Australia there is a company doing exactly this calles Transact.

      http://transact.com.au/

      They are building a huge Optical fiber network across the whole city. Through it you can get your phone, internet, and TV.

      For the internet they use ISPs to resell the network. You actually sign up with another ISP, and use that ISP's connection, but your connection to the ISP is through Transact.
    • This is an 'educational' type project, and something that the college might not mind endorsing - especially if the college CS professors live in town. Considering colleges and universities gets bandwidth for a fraction of what a commercial entity does, they could probably offer the bandwidth to the community with that fraction in mind, with a little extra added to cover the overhead of on-campus bandwidth.

      That is, unless, the college isn't already raping its students with exhorbinant bandwidth prices.
  • ROI? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by secolactico (519805) on Monday April 14, 2003 @07:23PM (#5732087) Journal
    First and foremost: is this going to be a for-profit venture or a "Public Service"?

    Is this $40/month a flat rate or a minimun rate without "extras"? Will everyone have the same benefits?

    Obviously, bandwith *will* have to be limited. Who will admin this? City Hall?

    Expect AOL to SMTP-block your netblocks as well.

    How is the fiber going to be terminated in every drop? Ethernet transceivers? ST/SC/whatever...

  • by Audent (35893) <audent&ilovebiscuits,com> on Monday April 14, 2003 @07:24PM (#5732092) Homepage
    I attended a session run by Ericsson on fibre to the home (FttH) and its benefits/pitfalls... the obvious upside is the ease with which you can upgrade as/when fibre tech improves (constantly it seems) but you need more than just fast net access to really deliver the goods - TV is an ideal companion because it works even for those that don't care about the net. Tivo like functionality is easily done with FttH, without upsetting network operators (delayed TV in effect - all programming stored on a giant server for several days - watch it when you want).

    New Zealand-centric story on it here:
    http://www.idg.net.nz/webhome.nsf/UNID/7EAF 07D7C0F 0E6CDCC256CF60013877F

    some case study stuff from Ericsson here:

    http://www.ericsson.com.au/network_operators/bro ad band_breakthroughs.shtml
    • Tivo like functionality is easily done with FttH, without upsetting network operators (delayed TV in effect - all programming stored on a giant server for several days - watch it when you want).

      Over here in Britain, we had a similar service called Homechoice. Everything was on a central server, and you could use your remote to choose what you wanted to watch (even music videos), and it would come over ADSL. It was cheap, being about 6GBP a month. Amazingly, it's still running [homechoice.co.uk] and it also provides broadban

  • they can hire and fire the cable company
    and the ISP.

    Local control!
  • Skillsets (Score:2, Interesting)

    by d3ut3r0n (664760)
    By "town network", your post seems to imply that it will be entirely run by local citizens... how close is everyone in your community? Are they typically generations of families there? I could imagine this sort of cooperation working if the skills were local and the population relatively static... but what would you do if key people decided to leave town? Also, do you have a better breakdown of what that $40 per month covers? Will all citizens agree to flat rate fees? A flat rate is good for the 20-somethi
  • by Tackhead (54550) on Monday April 14, 2003 @07:27PM (#5732113)
    Block outbound port 25 by default. Turn it back on by request.

    99% of your users have neither the intention nor the desire to run their own SMTP server. They'll use your mail server - that is, they'll talk POP or a similar protocol to whatever server you set up for them. That's enough for them - they just want email, and they'd rather not have to provide it for themselves.

    The other 1% of your users are smart and clued enough to set up their own mail servers, and probably have legitimate reasons to do so.

    Now, back to your 99% who have no intention of talking on port 25, anywhere. Of them, 10% of your users probably will set up an open proxy, or run an open wireless node. Whether they do so with malicious intent (unlikely) or out of ignorance (highly likely!!) doesn't matter.

    What matters is the fact that these nodes will be abused by spammers.

    So, if you want the 1% of your geeky-and-clued customers to be able to send email to the rest of the world from their own MTA, it's up to you to make sure that the 10% of your clueless customers can't.

    Otherwise, expect your users - clued and clueless alike - will be talkin' to the 550 like 24.0.0.0/8, 4.0.0.0/8, 12.0.0.0/8, and 200.0.0.0/6, four big chunks of netspace I - and others - don't wanna hear from, because they have a million open proxies spewing spam for every legitimate customer.

    I'm not saying block outbound port 25 for everyone. I'm saying block it by default, and lift the block for anyone who calls the support center and says "I can't send mail. Yes I'm running my own mail server, and I need to run my own mail server for $REASON", where $REASON is basically anything other than "The guy who sold me the Millions Of Addresses CD said port 25 blocking was censorship!" :-)

    • I would suggest blocking inbound port 25 instead, as we still want people to be able to connect to the isp's smtp server, we just don't want jane doe to be running an open relay.
      My $.02
    • IMO, you can also eliminate a substantial reason for them not wanting to use your mail servers, if your mail servers support TLS.

      To me, end-to-end email encryption is valuable... enough so to run my own mailserver at home. Sure, 90% of the servers out there don't talk TLS and my transmission ends up going in the clear anyways, but my ISP's server won't talk TLS at all - which would make it 100% in the clear.

      By running TLS, you can short-circuit at least some of their concerns, AND provide a more valuable
  • Fiber to Everyone (Score:2, Insightful)

    by tigerdream (664713)
    Remember also that fiber in the street is fine, but you have to look at the connection at the house. Would this require that all new and existing construction remove coax and install fiber? If not you will have to have the hardware at every house to convert the signal. Overall sounds good, but as usual the Devil is in the Details
  • another entire neighborhood linked together. I live in a neighborhood that has 700+ houses connected by fiber optics. Some of the problems I've had is that during peak usage hours, my internet will slow down considerably (maybe because we don't have a very good server. I don't know specs on it). My computer also seems to be hacked a lot more in this neighbor hood than a non-wired hood. I personally prefer not having a centralized network, but thats just my opinion. Also, the support here is not well maintai
  • What else would use that kind of bandwidth?
  • by kwerle (39371) <kurt@CircleW.org> on Monday April 14, 2003 @07:29PM (#5732136) Homepage Journal
    The town I live in, San Bruno, has one of the very few remaining municiply run Cable Companies in the state (US?). It's really great. I used to use them for Internet access, which they farmed out to a 3rd party. Unfortunately, the 3rd party ISP got bought out and moved on to focus on greener pastures. When the cable company decided to move to @home, I took off (seeing the writing on the wall at that time).

    Anyway, my advice:
    If you figure that $20-$30/month goes to TV, that leaves somewhere between $10-20/month to an ISP. The upside is that the city is going to take care of the cable issues (and hopefully do it well...). $15x3000 (1/3 of the folks actually want internet) is $45K/month. That may not enough to run a new ISP, but it might be a nice additional chunk to an existing ISP.

    The real trick is to find a GOOD ISP that is willing to pick up the extra customers. There may be a local (or nearby) ISP that is willing to pick up a job like this. My advice is to try to find a local house that will do it, and avoid the nationals if you can.

    On the other hand, if someone was willing to set up a municiple ISP as a not-for-profit, they may be able to do well at it.

    Good luck.
  • To me the big red light is when they say "give it to everybody" and then start talking about how much they plan to charge you.

    $40 a month for broadband is a nice deal, obviously, but in the name of making sure "everybody" has equal access, will they be requiring people to pay the $40 monthly fee even if they don't plan to make use of the available service?
    • If this is something most of the residents are willing to pay for, they would just raise property taxes. Since $40/mo is $480/year... adding an additional $500/year to the average property tax of a house in that area is pretty minor. Estimating the taxes are in the $4000-5000/year range anyway.

      • If this is something most of the residents are willing to pay for, they would just raise property taxes. Since $40/mo is $480/year... adding an additional $500/year to the average property tax of a house in that area is pretty minor. Estimating the taxes are in the $4000-5000/year range anyway.

        $4000-$5000/year probably isn't too far off for Hanover. But this is the "Live Free or Die" State. Trust me, people around here have been known to get very angry about smaller amounts of money. Heck, the number

  • My hometown similar pop, university, implemented a city-wide cable internet system.

    Ashland Fiber Net [ashlandfiber.net]

    The city now offers TV, Internet, and hosting at around $40/mo.

    Travis
  • by JDizzy (85499) on Monday April 14, 2003 @07:31PM (#5732148) Homepage Journal
    I hate to get technical here in slashdot (cuz I know all the trolls are readings), but a city wide network is called a metropolitan area network. Networks that go from one city to another are called a Wide Area Network (aka WAN), and networks within a building are called Local Area Networks (aka LAN). A LAN does not exist when the network leaves the building, and a WAN doesn't exist until you leave the city/town. Get it right people! City wide networks are not that impressive when you consider the phone company already has you connected to the phone system, and a T1 line is nothing more than a standard phone line.
  • You'll have people that have no interest in this. Perhaps they don't use the net much or are perfectly happy with their $20.00/ month AOL dialup (or whatever they charge now). So do people subscribe or do they get charged with the local taxes, water, garbage or whatever? How do you deal with someone that abuses the TOS...if they have to pay for it in their local taxes or other "fees" I don't think you can leagally cut them off.

    Also, if you put a locally run cable company on this, usually you'd end up wi
  • I think another huge benefit would be that the community would own the infrastructure, keeping you from getting gouged by Adelphia or whatever phone/cable provider is in your area.

    Not only that, but it creates local jobs, too -- physical maintenance, system administrators, tech support and such.

    --Jeremy
  • It is coming and there will never be enough bandwidth into end points. This is an opportunity to bring in a great deal that can grow as time goes one. Besides, it is 40/month that will help improve the re-sale of your house.
  • Years ago Blacksburg (home of Virginia Tech) did something sorta like this (except it was mid 90's, so internet access period, not broadband). Perhaps a little ambitious, and honestly I can't say I can see any real difference from other towns. But it relates. http://www.bev.net is the still existing homepage http://www.cni.org/tfms/1995b.fall/BEV.html has some other info...
  • 802.16 WMAN? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Yonder Way (603108)
    I have been kicking around the idea of an 802.16 WMAN for the city of Philadelphia and surrounding counties, with the idea that it would be a private network address space with the option for local ISP's to provide Internet gateway services to paying customers. On the upside, local folks could set up their own ftp mirrors, p2p services, etc. without having to pay the high bandwidth costs associated with the wired Internet.

    This would of course require volunteer management of the address space, DNS, etc. bu
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 14, 2003 @07:39PM (#5732224)
    My town, Glasgow, Ky, has already done this. There is a nice article about it here [telephonyonline.com]. More info at this link [glasgow-ky.com]. At $26 monthly or $260 annually, its pretty nice. Service is also offered in most of the county. It's really quite nice, especially for a little town out in the middle of nowhere. : )
  • My Ramble (Score:3, Informative)

    by krangomatik (535373) <`moc.oohay' `ta' `awakijufr'> on Monday April 14, 2003 @07:39PM (#5732225)
    I'm guessing that you've probably already included this in your planning, but I'll throw it out here anyhow: See if you can negotiate with your local cable television francise holders to use some of their right of way for your fiber. Or when they do an area build out to pay the incremental cost to put a bunch of strands in the ground for you in addition to whatever they are laying. I think that cable companies are required to offer 'Institutional Networks (I-Nets)' to the localities with the franchise rights during negotiations and from what I've gathered they have ended up in some cases of passing a $1/sub/month "Franchise Fee" onto the customer to pay for these I-Nets. I think they are required to offer this under some federal program or another. YMMV on how easy your cable company is to work with. I've been involved with a tad bit of this from the technical perspective so my knowledge on the politics and other issues is a bit lacking. But from what I've seen cable companies have rolled out provider managed as well as franchise holder managed systems around the country. But the negotiations seem to take forever. And the contracts are usually pretty long term (decade+) and the rollouts often stretch over a few years, but in the end if well planned they seem to be a cost effective way of getting bandwidth around a local region. It sounds like what you're doing may be an extesion of this, where you've looked at what you could get from the cable companies seeking franchise rights and realized that for what seems to be a minimal monthly expense you can wire the local residents up too. IIRC Ashland, Oregon has done something along these lines (I'm actually not sure if this was the City of Ashland, or the county Ashland is in, but I'd guess their City Manager could get you pointed in the right direction).
    My only advice is just make sure you have clearly defined goals and that all the stakeholders are on the same page before you start. If all goes well the residents will be super happy. And happy constituents usually means votes, which means someone high up will love you if you can pull this off under their watch :P
  • Interesting uses: (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonvmous Coward (589068) on Monday April 14, 2003 @07:40PM (#5732227)
    " What reasons, other than the obvious benefit of having fiber to one's house, can you think of for making this kind of commitment to the infrastructure?"

    - Telecommuting. I'm assuming there'd be a huge bandwidth benefit here. As long as you're within city limits, you could hit the company server.

    - Personal servers. I'm not talking about web servers, though those would be nice, rather I'm talking about leaving a box on all the time with a huge hard drive in it. I'd liike to keep my music and videos etc on it so that I can access it anywhere in town.

    - DoS attacks against things like root servers would not bring down the ability for these people to communicate. The attacks would have to be community specific.

    - Disaster relief. It's been proven before that the internet can be resilient to disasters such as earthquake. Useful maybe?

    I should probably note that I'm not taking into account the town this is in. I'm imagining it existing here in Portland. Personally, I'd like to have my apartment complex all on a shared lan. I'd like to get to know my neighbors better. It'd be fun to have lan games etc.

  • Add phone service (Score:4, Interesting)

    by tchdab1 (164848) on Monday April 14, 2003 @07:41PM (#5732240) Homepage
    Get your town to consider adding phone service to the list. Local calls free, and bulk long distance charges.

    When you figure out that everything you buy has, oh, 35% - 100% or so (or more) profit tacked on to the cost, you begin to wonder why everyone isn't doing all of it on their own. Everything.
  • Having recently lived there, although in a townhouse with dish and internet already provided, you may want to ask them what challenges they faced. They are a little larger, non-college town, with a '99 pop. estimate of just over 19,000 (http://www.utohwy.com/s/spanishf.htm) which has definately grown in the last few years. You can see what they have done at www.sfcn.org [sfcn.org].
  • Do it. (Score:3, Informative)

    by alizard (107678) <alizard@ec i s . com> on Monday April 14, 2003 @07:43PM (#5732250) Homepage
    An internet company in the experimental stages is best off locating next to cheap bandwidth. Anyone who wants to do cheap experimentation on new products that suck up bandwidth should do the same.

    I expect that the new centers of commercial growth are going to be the new technology centers that citiLEC Internet access distribution will make possible.

    Silicon Valley had their chance to do this and blew it.

    The fact that this is going to make life more convenient for the town's citizens, force competition for cable TV meaning lower prices based on experiences from other citiLEC communities is... probably of more interest to the community than a shot at becoming a techology center.

    It's a win-win deal for everybody except incumbent cable / telco providers.

    I suggest a setup where access is resold to ISPs as it was in the citiLEC in the Pacific Northwest, check the slashdot thread for more info.

  • It occurs to me that with a city-wide lan, anybody who wanted to make their own movie would have an effective way of delivering it. Not sure how many film students you have there, but the ability to broadcast video would at the very least be entertaining. I'm curious to see what would come of that.
  • Potential Uses (Score:4, Interesting)

    by canolecaptain (410657) on Monday April 14, 2003 @07:45PM (#5732272)
    Here are some realistic potential uses:

    - Long Distance related -

    1) Video phones. I have kids, and would pay to give them a video phone so that we could communicate via sight instead of just sound. If I lived there, I'd buy one too so that the rest of my family could join in -> virtual teleconference anyone? As someone who also has family overseas, this becomes even more important.

    - Local Industries -

    2) Distance learning. People in the town could realistically take classes from the university without having to physically attend class. Even better, the class could be taped and purchased for download (digitally) for less than the cost of actual enrollment, but the student base could go way up without major facility improvements.

    3) True downloadable video on demand. Local servers in the town, perhaps even owned by the town, but with distribution rights, could sell/rent downloadable videos to the residents. Tivos can already file share within the house - why not across the neighborhood?

    4) Yes, online games would rock. More importantly, localized community games would -scream-. How about hosting bridge/chess/etc parlor type games within the community? For a small fee to cover server expenses, a whole bunch of the older generation could play together from their homes, and TALK AT THE SAME TIME. Again, this is another local industry that could be started.

    5) Town meeting multi-casts. Now, people don't have to crowd into some small room to discuss town policies. They can watch it online, and use VoIP to conference in (with a moderator of course).

    Of course, these are just a few. If you can concentrate on local industries, more useful applications for the technology will appear. Best of luck. Maybe I'll consider moving a little further north if this is put in place. :-)

    • Yes, online games would rock. More importantly, localized community games would -scream-. How about hosting bridge/chess/etc parlor type games within the community?

      Finally a level playing field! I always hate it when I lag and some low-ping bastard schools me on Yahoo chess.
  • Just for a neighborhood [slashdot.org] in Sweden, but they had 100 Mb/sec fiber to the houses. A bit smaller than an entire town, but the basic idea is there. (Unfortunatley the page linked in the story isn't there, but here is the link [archive.org] through the Wayback Machine [archive.org].
  • Dartmouth tried to go wireless before the technology was ready and it turned out to be a disaster. The founder of Cisco donated a buttload of money to get them going (he went there i think) but when they set the whole thing up it just plain didn't work. I didn't hear much about it after that, but they were talking about scrapping the entire thing. I bet he is at it again. I have family that grew up there and know the town fairly well, I bet the townspeople will not pay $40/month for this.
  • Other services (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Tomun (144651)
    The vast majority of a town's population won't be die hard geeks like us. I expect only about 20% to happlily accept the $40 fee without some obvious non internet benefits.

    With a fiber network in the town you can offer very high speed local networking to the people and only limit bandwidth for external connections. Most people wont know what they can do with that, so you'll need to set up a few services that people can start using right away.

    A few ideas off the top of my head for people with PCs:

    Free vid
  • When I first got into the Internet back in the early '90s, we were looking for ways to build a local real-time network, and building an ISP was the only way we could think of to fund it. But some applications I'd like to see based on the things we were talking about back then:
    • If every business can afford to have a network, a lot of business that's currently ineffeciently conducted over the phone could be done via the network. Every restaurant with a take-out menu should, at the very least, be encouraged
  • by just some computer j (594460) on Monday April 14, 2003 @07:55PM (#5732351) Journal
    Ok, it sounds great. But, I am sure there is going to be some fine print on this project.

    For one, how big is the actual pipe to the Internet going to be?

    Two, servers of any kind are going to have to be serverly limited or not allow at all.

    Three, Terms of Service. The number one most important thing of this project. The people of this college town, including the college students are going to have to read and sign that TOS. If they read and sign it, there will be less confusion as to the punishment for people that abuse having fast connections. Plus, it covers the City's butt.

    Four, cost of fiber optic cable and equipment for the city and the customers. We all know how expensive fiber is. The last mile and Customer Premise Equipment can be prohibitively expensive. Also, I don't know know how many people are going to want to work for a city to support a network of that size. I mean, I don't care where you are, government work is goverment work.

    But hey, this is just my opinion, I could be way off..
  • shutdown all ports not needed for browsing, and getting email. Open them by request.
    Especially port 25. If one person leaves that open, your bandwidth will be sucked up by spammers.

    Make it a simple request, via web.
  • here's a link [cedmagazine.com] to a project in Utah that wants to bring fiber to 170,000 households and more than 20,000 businesses.
  • Lowell MI (Score:5, Insightful)

    by yamcha666 (519244) on Monday April 14, 2003 @08:02PM (#5732406)

    I live up in west Michigan nearby a town called Lowell. Now, around where I live, we have Comcast Cable for Internet and TV, and Charter for cable 'net, AT&T, MCI, Ameritech, what have you for phone companies. My household pays roughly $160 each month to these companies for cable internet, local and long distance phone, and digital cable service. Obvisouly, these are privately owned corps.

    Now, drive 10 miles SE, to Lowell, MI, where the major utilities are owned by the city. They offer local phone, broadband internet, digital cable, the utilities, etc, and it's cheap. Running about $60 average for all the services. There isn't no private corporation involved. All of the infastructure was built, and is owned by the city.

    So, would I rather pay $60 than $160. Yes, especially if it ain't to a large corporation out for better interests than the consumer. Plus, as a citizen of that city, in a way, you control and have a voice in what goes on. Thats why supporting your local infastructure could be important and better off in the long run for your community.

  • Have them contact Ashland Fiber Network [ashlandfiber.net]. They have already done a similar thing there, and couple probably give good estimates and suggestions.

    Malachi

  • IPv6 (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Dark Lord Seth (584963) on Monday April 14, 2003 @08:13PM (#5732469) Journal

    Projects like these are a GREAT way to introduce IPv6 to the masses, because every home can be given a range of IP adresses (hey, it's Ipv6, 2^128 adresses to waste! If that's not enough, someone make IPv8 a reality, 2^512 adresses.) for different computers, possibly a small subnet per house. While the internet itself (as we currently know it) can still be adressed by a centralized (or not, perhaps a backbone connection per district?) routing point which can receive requests for IPv4 sites and cause them to get delivered to IPv6 networks. This would instantly promote the use of IPv6 networks if this "city/town network" idea were to catch on.

    As for actual uses, how about making it possible to do stuff online in a FAR more safe way? Because IP adresses are clearly assigned per household, any attempt at being naughty can be traced down to a physical adress with ease. This would make the privacy people jump up in sheer disgust, but that can be worked out in detail some time. It would also be extremely good for communities. Real life ones that is, where the inhabitants of a town can discuss stuff on several online forums, maybe video conferencing as well? This would also open up possibilities for actually everyone to get involved in local politics. Even with a bit of new protocal magic (bye bye SMTP) it could even be possible to institute a city-wide email system, where just everyone would get his own email adress, per person, not per ISP account, like j.doe@district.city.nl.

    Of course, there are several things hampering this, mainly telcos who will do ANYTHING they can to stop this, to DMCA/$local_equivalent fanatics who will holler in rage because of the potential file-swapping possibilities, which with no doubt WILL happen. Then there is of course the standard problem with today's internet, like the last mile, annoying people who break stuff, innocent people who get framed by the aforementioned people, privacy people who will find any little detail to pounce upon and howl in rage... (Can be good or bad.)

    Ah well, to be blunt; I'll expect this will never happen in every town/city. It's not like today's local goverments aren't tight-budgeted already, they don't have the money to initialize a project like this, let alone buy of the armies of lawyers to fend of the telcos and DMCA zealots/corporate goons. Still, depsite the odds, one can hope ad one can try to contribute to the impossible. We're still in the early days of modern day networking, TCP/IP being used around 1969 for the first time on ARPANET. It's been 34 years since then. The first powered aircraft flight was in 1903, while they still flew around in propellor planes in 1937.

    Questions is, when will networking in general reach it's stage in life comparable to the jet angine in flight? A new set of protocols, like IPv6 and a new SMTP would be a very good step in the VERY right direction. Oh and it's 02:09 and I've only just realized the length of my story. Please excuse any typos you encounter.

  • Why not refer to this [linksyscom...etwork.com] site for more info?
  • by zurab (188064) on Monday April 14, 2003 @08:31PM (#5732559)
    Your town may consider ownership of the physical network, but making it easy for local ISPs to use the network to provide services to residents. This way residents are not dependent on government monopoly, fixed rates, single "let's think of our children" policy, etc. Government gets compensated for the share of their deployment and maintenance of the physical network from ISP fees, and at the same time supports multiple local or regional businesses (ISPs), promotes competition, creates business opportunities, employment, and provides tech-friendly environment for future development.
  • Perhaps this would be the optimal opportunity to build an [optical] wireless mesh network?

    Of course, this would be very daring, but isn't it something to consider when you are already planning such an innovative thing like town networking?
  • what sort of customer premises equipment is this fiber going to terminate into?
  • Is that really $40 only if everybody buys it? Or is it really $80 if only half the people buy it? Is that $40 that everybody will have to pay whether they want to buy it or not? Is there already cable television, and is this piggybacking on the cable TV network, or buying services from the cable TV network, or selling services _to_ the cable TV network, and how solid are those prices? Does anybody know what the real market is?

    Also, is it a transparent service that can connect to multiple ISPs, or not

  • Many telcos are using a hybrid fiber/copper network where they use fiber to a neighborhood SLIC and then go copper to the homes. Why? There is one HUGE reason why: you can't send voltage over fiber. Having 1001 channel cable and megabit Internet is great, but I still want at least voice grade service available when the power goes out (and I'm from New England and am well aware of blizzards). I know, some of you will say "cellular", but at many locations (like inside my house) my cell phone doesn't work! Bes
  • Hi!

    You're not the first community to consider the idea. Kutztown, Pennsylvania has had a very successful experience in building out a Municipal Area Network--it would be well worth your while to study how Kutztown set about doing what they've done, and how they did it. Here's a brief overview [opticalsolutions.com] PDF file from a vendor--it's a vendor's sales piece, but there's a good intro. A couple of key points:

    • Kutztown has operated a municipal power company for 100 years--they had all kinds of experience with things like
  • by uncadonna (85026) <mtobis AT gmail DOT com> on Monday April 14, 2003 @09:29PM (#5732818) Homepage Journal
    The small town of Reedsburg WI of all places (similar population, but no major university) has essentially the same idea.

    According to an op-ed piece in a recent edition of the Wisconsin State Journal by the mayor of that town, the cable TV companies are lobbying to pass a statewide resolution making such a thing illegal. The mayor, who didn't seem much of radical lefty, thought this was a bit over the top.

    I have very little additional information. There's nothing online as far as I can tell about this controversy, which is why I didn't submit it as a Slashdot story.

    Apparently, competition from the public sector is going to be illegal though. I wonder how come we still have a postal service. Anyway, your town needs to watch out for being blindsided by this.

    • The slightly larger (7,000) WI town of New London is also pursuing this--I believe I read the license cost $1000 and the feeling was that like you said, it's a limited time deal--until the cable lobbyists make it illegal.

      One thing they mentioned was the ability to remotely read electric meters rather than manually having to check them however often. Maybe a small cost compared to the additional IT support but I'd bet there are some other ancillary benefits like this.

  • OK it loks like you want to fiber yourself up a man, ok not a bad idea LRE ethernet may be a better use for residential (100mb deditated should be enough for anyone :) well maybe not but it should be cost justified vs terminating all that fiber in the house day one) Fiber running around the city would seem prudent if it was easily accesable and could be reached in a few days to the buildings thats a LOT better than the normal 6 month build in.

    OK good services Network access obviously a good vlan or MPLS i
  • Like cable? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by anethema (99553) on Monday April 14, 2003 @10:36PM (#5733101) Homepage
    Sounds like you are trying to do exactly what cable from (here) shaw does. They deliver tv and radio content, plus internet, all for around 40 dollars a month, at least here in canada.

    How is what you are proposing different?
  • Telecom Installation Tech :

    Specialization Fiber Optic Networks from 417 Megabits/sec - 1.6 Terabits/sec

    [1.6 TB That means one reaaallly big pipe for lots of data to fly down]



    By the way if they are looking for someone to run the network maintenance I am able to relocate!



    Optical networking is generally used as a carrier for what ever type of digital data is being sent. For example say you have an Optical Carrier Signial uhhh lets say about an OC3 (3 T3's in optical format) All of the data that the OC3

  • by Obiwan Kenobi (32807) <.evan. .at. .misterorange.com.> on Monday April 14, 2003 @10:49PM (#5733152) Homepage
    Think:

    Real time audio streaming of town meetings, city council, public court hearings. You've got the bandwidth to setup and sustain a few hundred streaming realplayer connections.

    Keep a consistent interface. I would suggest a web-based initiative, because you can find content management systems (I use this one [xoops.org], but there's [movabletype.org] more of them [slashcode.com], where you could setup a simple username and password interface to let everyone logon, use web-based email, get local alerts etc.

    Think of seeing the pictures of a wanted suspect everywhere in the neighborhood in seconds. Grab a mugshot, scan it in, and boom, thanks to integrating your phone service through this (which, if you don't, you'll look at yourself in 10 years and really kick yourself) the guy won't be able to go anywhere near a residential neighborhood without getting tagged. A phone call (or special ring?) will alert you to an "emergency message" provided via email, instead of having to hear about it through the TV (and all the rigamarole that entails, compared to just sending out an email). Think of weather alerts in this same vein. A blizzard coming and you need to warn the masses?

    Keep wireless access points around town. I mean, if its in the city limits and you're going to go, go all the way. That way if their notebook has a wireless card, they can still sit in the restaraunt and eat quietly while surfing the net.

    Everyone gets an email address that is not spammed and can only be used for city business and contacts. This is a peculiar idea consider, but it would assure that you would never, ever, get spam from this address. This one you can throw away, but I thought I would throw it in the mix.

    Teleconferencing intra-city. With video. Nuff said. (Think X-11 or something. You can push the bandwidth.)

    If you integrate your phone service through this line, the shared cost would be more than enough to keep a techie or two onhand for support, a few DNS/Web/FTP servers running, etc etc.

    Just a few ideas. There is no way this cannot help your town, and I congratulate you in your efforts. Good luck.
  • Prepare computers to be used during off hours for something useful. Perhaps pro bono work like folding some protein or maybe just sell the CPU cycles to the highest bidder. Obviously residents would have to agree/ get incentiviezed to let their computers do the work; but I am sure a solution could be found. Tor
  • by pavera (320634) on Monday April 14, 2003 @11:07PM (#5733208) Homepage Journal
    I am currently working with a large master planned community they are running fiber to every home, and they are delivering phone/internet/tv/movies on demand to every home over the single fiber link. The ability to run everything over 1 cable is a very large benefit... I would pay $80 per month to have these services all bundled together... and at this community they are only charging $35/mo per house.. its great.
  • DOes this. Canberra has several hundred thousand people, and all those who live in suburbs with electricity on poles can get fibre to their house.
    It carries broadband internet and Cable TV. Don't know what the cost is
  • of the town, causing the big LAN to suddenly be... minimized, if you will, due to a large influx of fanatical college students claiming this to be the holy place of P2P or something crazy like that and going on a pilgrimage...

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