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Last-Mile Solution For A Rural Land Co-op? 312

macguys writes "My community consists of about 150 households spread out over several hundred acres in North Florida. We are far enough away from the nearest city that broadband cable and DSL services don't make it here. We're well organized, and used to working together on projects. We have a lot of home based business offices here and high speed access something that many of my neighbors are hungry for. We've looked at projects like and know that others have addressed the issue with 802.11b/g/etc. There is no big problem getting a T-1 to the community. That part is easy. The hard part is distributing the bandwidth among those here who want to participate. Wireless works in places but in general this land is covered in hardwood and pines and the signal drops off quickly. We have a long history (community is 25 years old) of working together to solve problems. Running copper or coax is not out of the question if we can find a reasonable way of distributing the bandwidth. Any suggestions are welcome."
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Last-Mile Solution For A Rural Land Co-op?

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  • by eap ( 91469 ) on Sunday May 11, 2003 @06:49PM (#5932912) Journal
    Satellite? Start up fees are kind of high, but once you get going, it's not bad:

    Satellite dish: $150
    Converter box: $200
    NIC: $15
    Launching your own community based Internet communications satellite: $1,000,000,000
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 11, 2003 @08:25PM (#5933353)
      • Satellite dish: $150
      • Converter box: $200
      • NIC: $15
      • Launching your own community based Internet communications satellite: $1,000,000,000
      • Getting your town slashdotted: Priceless
    • Actually every person should just get 2 way satellite, and avoid the potential for bandwidth leeching and political inevitabilities of bandwidth from a T1 or DSL or other shared line. While a regulated utility such as water/gas/electric is metered, bandwidth isn't, and if one person eats up the majority of the bandwidth, you have a small arms family fued going on in North Florida.
      • bandwidth throttling (Score:3, Informative)

        by smartfart ( 215944 )
        "and if one person eats up the majority of the bandwidth, you have a small arms family fued going on in North Florida."

        IIRC, iproute2 is able to selectively throttle connections based on username and other identifiying qualities (such as per IP address, etc.). I haven't looked at the package (no need as of yet), but I would imagine that this would be a good tool to use against kazaa servers, etc..

        The best thing is, the luser eating all your bandwidth doesn't have to be told that you're cutting back on h

  • Long-reach ethernet (Score:5, Informative)

    by autopr0n ( 534291 ) on Sunday May 11, 2003 @06:50PM (#5932914) Homepage Journal
    Cisco has a system [] for using ethernet over regular phone wire up to 5k feet with 5-15mbps performace
    • by rmohr02 ( 208447 )
      It shouldn't be much of a problem to use an ethernet connection over phone wire--if I remember correctly, only four of the eight wires in an ethernet cable are used.
      • by jo_ham ( 604554 ) <> on Sunday May 11, 2003 @07:15PM (#5933053)
        That's true, but the problem would be voltage drop, or similar problems with long cable runs.

        IIRC, the maximum run for 100baseT ethernet is 100 metres with cat 5 between switches/machines/etc.

        The Cisco system must introduce some sort of line amplifier to send data that far, so you'd have to have a pair of them, one on each end. The signals and cable setup itself would be identical to standard ethernet, just with a lot more power.
        • by hdflsts2002 ( 663847 ) on Sunday May 11, 2003 @11:21PM (#5934074)
          Cisco's LRE solution uses vdsl technology to carry data and vocie over a single telco grade copper pair. You will need an LRE switch which come in 8/12/24 port versions (the 2912 and 2924 have been and of saled but you can still find it in the channels. The switches are the 2912LRE-XL 2924LRE-XL 2950 8 LRE and 2950 24 LRE. If you plan on carrying voice over these links as well then you will also need a 48 port POTS splitter. This however is not a required item if you only plan to carry data.

          At the customer end you will need either a 575 LRE or 585 LRE The 575 has a single fast ethernet port as well as an analog phone port, the 585 has 4 fast ethernet as well as the analog phone port. You should be able to find the 2950 24 LRE for around $2900 The 575's for about $95 and the 585s for around $150 For around $5200 you can get the 2950 24 LRE and 24 575 CPEs.

          Cisco rates the units to provide between 1Mb and 16.2Mb up to a distance of 5000 feet (this is the distance of the copper not driving distance). While the unit is rated for 5000 feet I have personal set up a few of these with distances close to 7000 feet and still was able to pull 1Mb.

          Your next step is to order a (well as many as you have customers) dry pair from you phone company. Some telcos will call these opx or alarm circuts. No matter what the case make sure that you specify that you want unconditioned (no dial-tone or battery power) with no side legs/taps (in other words a pair from point a to point b with no other connections along the way.) Depending on the telco these may cost you anywehere from a couple dollars a month to around half the price of a standard residential phone line.

          The last part of the equation is some sort of high speed connection run to the location of the lre switch (T1 or higher). The great thing about the Cisco solution that other products mentioned here do not offer is QOS as well as per port rate limiting.

          If you want to carrty this one step further you could become your own CLEC by adding a call manager server to this setup and a pri to bring the voice into the mix. Now not only can you provide broadband to your neighborhood you can provide dial tone as well. The pri can carry 24 simultanious calls and can have as many unique did numbers as you like.

          With only 24 subscribers on the switch you are actually going to be very undersubscribed on the voice end of things. At the customer side you can either supply an ata 188 to connect to their existing telco wiring meaning that they can use all thier existing phones or you could siply provide a Cisco 7902/7905/7912/7940/7960 phone and have them be straight ip phones and then provide many additional services. The ATA 188 can provide 2 unique call paths so when one of your customers requires a second line all you do is either have them plug into the second port on the ata and configure it to go or you make a service call to them and wire it to a punch down block so that they can add the second line to mulitple phones. The possibilities are endless and while the setup costs might seem a bit high the recurring charges are minimal other than your ISP line and access charges.
    • FYI, LRE works in a similar way to DSL, and requires a CPE device (box) at the client end, and a LRE-capable switch at the central point.

      You can also use the line for a phone at the same time (just like DSL), and the incoming phone line connects to the LRE-capable switch (well, a splitter).

      The main problem will be getting access rights to the actual copper phone lines in the ground (which would be owned by the local telco).
    • by Tim Doran ( 910 ) <timmydoran@ro g e r s .com> on Sunday May 11, 2003 @09:32PM (#5933585)
      Yup. Cisco's LRE is great technology. But you can save yerself a fortune using SMC's Extended Ethernet []. Both are VDSL implementations, SMC just doesn't carry the premium that Cisco's brand demands.
  • Easy (Score:4, Informative)

    by cscx ( 541332 ) on Sunday May 11, 2003 @06:50PM (#5932922) Homepage
    Run ethernet to all the houses. Maybe you want to run fiber in between and stick a transceiver at each end, for future expansion. Run them all into a Cisco and use packet-shaping to put bandwidth limitations on each house. Run them all into a pair of T1s and whee, fast internet access. (Probably won't be as fast as cable though since you probably can't pay for lots of bandwidth... for example, my local cable for example is faster than a T1 at times.)
    • Re:Easy (Score:3, Interesting)

      A T1 line runs at 1.544 Mb/s. High speed DSL runs at up to 1.544 Mb/s. T1 is not the solution here. T3 is approx 48 Mb/s. Even it may not be the solution for this many households. Now say, plug in an ATM backbone or a fiber link would be getting places. The problem is distance and paying for the bandwidth they need.
      • Re:Easy (Score:5, Informative)

        by Fulcrum of Evil ( 560260 ) on Sunday May 11, 2003 @07:37PM (#5933145)

        T1 is not the solution here.

        For 150 houses, a few T1s are just fine. Figure 15:1 overcommitment and 500Kbps, and you get roughly 5Mb covering everything. Run 4 T1s together and you have all you need. If bandwidth becomes a problem (probably won't), then you can think about Frac-T3s. The reason to stay away from T3 setups is that a T3 is expensive, as is the equipment, and these people are not liekly to be running datacenters out of their farmhouses. Email and web describe the majority of their activity.

  • Wireless mesh (Score:5, Informative)

    by infractor ( 152926 ) on Sunday May 11, 2003 @06:53PM (#5932937)
    You can extend the range of 802.11 using multiple hops and mesh networking.

    LocustWorld [] have a system which can be downloaded and booted on a CD [] or via a harddisk. They also sell solid state mesh boxes ready to go. Check out what other community projects have managed to do with the kit [].

    • Stick a highly directional antenna on an 802.11 setup and you can get some fairly good mostly point-to-point wireless links. The local university does that here between campus and its various off-campus houses purchased in the neighborhoods nearby. The trick is getting the antenna high enough that it has a direct line of sight.
      • Two questions regarding directional 802.11 antennas. First, I don't have a line of sight to the location I want to have access (the beach). Can I bounce it off the side of a building or does the signal not bounce off of cement?

        Second, where do I get an N-connector? Does Radio Shack sell them? The only place I checked was Radio Shack and of course no one there knew what I was talking about. They pointed me to their website, but just try searching for N connector on Radio Shack's site. You'll get every
  • Laser (Score:3, Interesting)

    by corebreech ( 469871 ) on Sunday May 11, 2003 @06:53PM (#5932938) Journal
    Got line-of-sight?
  • by mickwd ( 196449 ) on Sunday May 11, 2003 @06:54PM (#5932946)
    This site [] might be of interest.
  • by oolon ( 43347 ) on Sunday May 11, 2003 @06:55PM (#5932949)
    If you end up digging things up to lay coax, lay fiber as well you don't have to connect it to anything, that way you will have lots of room for expation without having to go back the the ground again. Otherwise you be in the situation cable companies are in of wishing they had layed fiber but coax was cheaper in the short term. Of course if you have cheap labour, you might not care about having to redo things in the future.

    • Even if you don't run fiber, lay larger conduit that will allow you to "fish" other types of cables through later (even beyond wireless)
      • Normally I would agree with that 100% but they said they were in a rural setting, so the cable is going to be layed just below the dirt I would guess. So the question (and expense) of needing access covers every 300 yards or so less or more of a bother. Pulling though cables for a complete run still takes alot of time, of course a complete life saver when you have tarmac and concrete on top of what you have layed.

  • Solar power (Score:3, Funny)

    by skinfitz ( 564041 ) on Sunday May 11, 2003 @06:55PM (#5932953) Journal
    I think what is needed are solar powered tree mounted wireless bridges.

    Oops I'm off to patent that.
    • Palmtops? (Score:2, Funny)

      by billstewart ( 78916 )
      Ok, I stole the line, but you toss the ball in such a slow high arc....

      I first heard the term from people who were talking about unwiring places in the Caribbean.

  • Fiber (Score:5, Interesting)

    by geogeek6_7 ( 566395 ) on Sunday May 11, 2003 @06:59PM (#5932969) Homepage
    In my community, we chose to use ethernet over fiber. You avoid any electrical concerns, and the fiber can be buried. We purchased 6 strand fiber from Anixter [], and have been very happy.

    I would highly suggest fiber as opposed to just about anything else--- it takes work to install (dig ditch, we put in conduit, then pulled fiber through it), and it requires a special terminiation kit, but the results are extremely rewarding.

    • If you run a hard line, it is best to use glass instead of copper. Otherwise, the effects of a lightning strike can be pretty dramatic: the lightning tends to seek out shallow runs of copper (although it could care less about glass). If you must run copper, use fancy isolators on both ends to minimize the danger to folks and equipment.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    I know you say your used to "working together" well then who be in charge of maintaining the T1 connection and equipment? Seems to me any incompetent management of that equipment might invite shotgun wielding neighbors.
    • Generally the LEC you purchase the T1 from will keep the line up. The termination points, thats what would be of any concern. All you would need though is a Cisco (or any other router) with a T1 card (even the 2k's can have T1 cards, dont necessarily need a datacenter and a 10k or anything special like that). Between that and the smartjack (end of T1) is just a piece of cat5. The other end would require connection to an ISP, probably something the LEC could also handle. If it goes down, and your cisco is st
  • Multiple Options (Score:5, Informative)

    by MonMotha ( 514624 ) on Sunday May 11, 2003 @07:00PM (#5932973)
    If you're willing to run lines and fiber is possible, you can just run fiber from the most central place to everywhere else and run 100Mbit or GigE over it. Ethernet can go a very long distance over fiber.

    If fiber is out of the option, you could run coax, get a CMTS (can be had on ebay for $5k-$10k) and run a cable modem system over your coax. You could also then get a big sat dish (not the DSS things, the C-Band things) and provide basic cable as well for a reasonable cost.

    Failing coax, DSLAMs can also be had cheap and run over just about any kind of wire as long as it's twisted together :)

    Basically, you're spread out enough that using the same technologies the telcos and cable services use is feasable. You could also start running T carrier, but that may get a bit expensive in terms of hardware.

    As for wireless solutions, look into directional stuff (obviously). A mesh system may be most useful as it would allow the network to keep working even if one residence isn't reachable for repeating. Various 2.4GHz solutions exist, not just 802.11, or you could also look in to free-space optical. The RONJA project (google for it) is kidna neat, but probably not feasable in this situation.
    • Re:Multiple Options (Score:2, Informative)

      by kpdvx ( 546561 )
      Running your own basic cable service wouldn't be that easy actually. First of all, if you were to distribute the channels across your community (which, you are) the dish would need to be fixed on one single satellite. Galaxy5 would be the one, because it has the most "cable" channels on it. Keep in mind that channels are spread across different satellites. Ok, so, now you'll have to go with a dual polarity LNB (one polarity for odd channels, and one for even) and then you would need to have 24 different rec
    • you can just run fiber from the most central place to everywhere else

      And while we're on the subject of Cheap and Easy options, why not Just Put a satellite into Geosynchronous orbit and just build a land relay station that just uses microwave frequencies? You just call the FCC and they set you up with a license. Then you just need subscribers and you're set.

  • by dbarclay10 ( 70443 ) on Sunday May 11, 2003 @07:00PM (#5932981)
    With respect to the T1 ... god, PLEASE shop around for options.

    T1s aren't significantly faster than good DSL service, and can be significantly slower than cable 'net access. For about 20 times the price.

    Now, you may have no other option, but do shop around. You won't regret it.
    • by c0y ( 169660 ) on Sunday May 11, 2003 @07:44PM (#5933171) Homepage
      If cable or DSL were available, there wouldn't be a need for et al....

      Also, with T1 circuits, you are more important to the telco than a DSL, which is just a dry pair and billed much less. In rural areas this may be more important than you think... If you are not too far from a large city, the break-even point for doing a T1 is probably ~12 people willing to pay $50/month and who have Line of Sight to a central point. This doesn't include startup costs, just monthly recurring.

      The Magnolia Road coop (from which I am posting this incidentally- I laugh at your puny /. effect) had outages last summer caused by lightning strikes[0] which took out the telco's repeaters.

      A T1 outage will get a much faster repair time than average for DSL. With T1, you call up your provider and go through the food chain to get the telco dispatched. With frame relay (at least through Qwest) Enterprise Repair calls you to see if you are available for a dispatch (this is true even when Qwest is not the ISP per se, but just the FR circuit carrier). Frame relay pricing is also not distance-sensitive as T1 is (at least here in Qwest-land, YMMV). It turns out we get better customer service on a FR than T1, while loop costs on the latter are higher!

      I mentioned this cam [] in another post just a few days ago. It looks at Thorodin Mountain, which is a central hub site for our network. This is what latency looks like going across that mountain right now (worst time of five separate monitoring points). This is via two hops on 5Ghz Trango radios [], ~ 14 miles round trip:

      10 packets transmitted, 10 packets received, 0% packet loss
      round-trip min/avg/max/std-dev = 3.425/4.236/6.832/0.951 ms

      One moral: stay away from 2.4Ghz as much as possible. Everyone and their brother has a 2.4ghz phone/mouse/x-10 cam that will cause interference. Those times above were in 100's of ms when the links were at 2.4Ghz. We still do end-user AP at 2.4, but channel crowding forced us to upgrade all of the point-to-point backhauls to 5.8Ghz

      coyote at magnoliaroad dot net

      [0] In one instance, lightning apparently entered a NOC via the T1, and fried a couple grand worth of equipment in one moment. We surmise it was the T1 because all of the radio gear was kicking. The catalyst switch was still semi-functional from the console, but was showing link on ports even after cables were removed :( In another instance, the same storm blew two different repeaters. Qwest managed to replace one of them and restored service for about ten minutes before the next one blew out (at which point I asked them to wait for the storm to pass). Enterprise repair is one of the few parts of Qwest which doesn't suck!

      • If cable or DSL were available, there wouldn't be a need for et al....

        Obviously cable and DSL aren't available to them ;) They were, however, examples of alternative technologies which are *much* cheaper, even over long distances.

        Frame relay pricing is also not distance-sensitive as T1 is (at least here in Qwest-land, YMMV). It turns out we get better customer service on a FR than T1, while loop costs on the latter are higher!

        This, indeed, is another example ;)

    • At peak times we see ~ 100 devices on the radio net.

      This graph [] shows a snapshot I just took of our aggregate bandwidth usage for the core network (there is another discrete T1 not represented there).
    • Well Thats the thing... DSL/Cable isn't there to replace T1's.. They are lower cost because they are Shared out to offset cost... What do you think they hook DSL/Cable up to?!?! The same stuff T1's do!! Bandwidth has to be paid for... You think just because it gets run through DSL/Cable service the Magic Bandwidth Farie comes by and makes it cheap?! Bandwidth is pretty much a fixed cost(Depending on who is selling it to you and how much they have aswell).. the more you get the cheaper it is... The shorter t
  • by MacDork ( 560499 )
    one of these []?
  • by nuggz ( 69912 )
    Can you make a transmission tower on a hill or something?
  • Use powerlines (Score:2, Insightful)

    by andrewlong ( 617908 )
    Check out
  • by Second_Derivative ( 257815 ) * on Sunday May 11, 2003 @07:11PM (#5933032)
    I can't find the story but check these guys out:

    Basically, when their local telco refused to provide DSL provision, they invoked a statue which forced them to colocate some DSLAM equipment of their own, and they set up their own DSL ISP. Should be just the sort of thing you're looking for. I'd get a fatter uplink than a T1.

    Anyway, yeah, plenty of informative info there, take a look. </karma_whore>
  • Bandwidth (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Lokni ( 531043 ) <reali100@chap[ ].edu ['man' in gap]> on Sunday May 11, 2003 @07:17PM (#5933063)
    I would much sooner go with a DS3 which to my understanding is about $5000 a month. For each home that works out to about $35 a month. I would find out first which homes in the community are interested and then find the cost to each home using the chosen technology. Ethernet might be good, or you can setup your own DSL ISP for the community. It would probably be wise to setup a co-op or non-profit corporation to organize costs and the collection of money for monthly bandwidth costs.
  • by JWSmythe ( 446288 ) * <> on Sunday May 11, 2003 @07:22PM (#5933077) Homepage Journal
    Funny that you just posted this to Slashdot.. We've been trying to figure out how to connect several locations (houses, apartments, and offices) in an urban part of Los Angeles, without having to pay outragous fees for bandwidth and even simply the wiring. We have an office in a centralized location that already has a T1, going back to one of our colo's with real bandwidth...

    You could do copper, but you're limited to 300m for Cat5. Anything longer, and you'll have to do some sort of modem. I don't know if you can put ?DSL modems back to back..

    You could do fiber, but that'll probably end up costing you some bucks, and you'll have to be sure that the lines are safe (like, no one will accidently dig through them).

    You don't say exactly where in N. Florida you are, but knowing Florida you're probably in a relatively flat area with lots of pine trees. You said several hundred acres, so I put that in an area calculator and found 1000 acres = 1.56sq miles, so none of your points are really very far from each other.. I think you're definately a candidate for wireless, if the trees stay out of the way.

    Check out [] for antennas.. No, not an advertisment. I just bought some stuff from them last week, and they were easy to deal with. They're also located in Florida, so your order will be there quick. My order got to California in about 3 days. If you were to put a sector antenna (like, the first one in the sector antennas section) in the center of the property, you should have good coverage to the whole property. I'd recommend for the best connection, get a good antenna for the receiving ends also, such as a 24db parabolic antenna.. Make sure when you mount them, you bolt them down tight, and be *VERY* sure you do good lightning supression.. I lived in Florida for years, and survived the hurricanes, and daily thunderstorms. :)

    To give an idea of what kind of range you can expect, I bought a "24 dBi Mag Grid Antenna" (bottom of the parabolic antenna list), and attached it to a "Senao SL-2511CD PLUS EXT2" card. From an upper story of an office building, I started sweeping around with this antenna just listening (to estimate range. honest.) With a 4.5db blade antenna, I could hear 6 AP's, but only had a workable signal to one. With the 24db antenna I could hear over 2 dozen AP's. None of them were named for what they were, except one that said "YMCA"..

    I asked some of the people who know the area well, "Is there a YMCA in that direction"? I know there's one closer, but it was about 60 degrees from where I was pointing. Turns out the YMCA I heard was a few miles away. So, with my 24db antenna talking to something resembling a normal AP (I doubt they had a directional antenna pointed at my office), I had a workable signal.

    Before you start buying cards, I strongly recommend you check out Seattle Wireless []. They have a *GREAT* page comparing wireless cards.. I highly recommend the Senao SL-2511CD PLUS EXT2.. It has two external antenna jacks (external antennas are required on this one). They also show an AP with the same card built in.. The Seano cards are suppose to put out 200mw, as opposed to most cards and AP's that are only around 30mw (check their chart), so you'll get much better range with them.

    I hope this helps.

    • Oops.. I forgot one part. :)

      If your customers already have TV towers (like those ugly 50' masts), that would really help.. Put your wireless antenna up on those, and (hopefully) you'll see over the trees.. In Central Florida (where I used to live), we had our TV antenna on a 50' tower to get TV reception.. We could see television from Tampa, Orlando, and Gainesville, depending on which way the antenna was pointing. Sometimes, if atmospheric conditions were right, we'd get the odd signal from Texa
  • Ruby Ranch Model (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DaveAtFraud ( 460127 ) on Sunday May 11, 2003 @07:23PM (#5933082) Homepage Journal
    Here is a link to the Ruby Ranch [] Internet Co-op. Besides having gone through the, "How do we get high speed Internet access out here?" question, they have also had to address the question of dividing up the available bandwidth. They also had some interesting experiences getting the local carrier (Qwest: Quintessentially Worst Example of a Stupid Telco) to let them connect.
  • Re: Last Mile (Score:3, Insightful)

    by spring ( 116537 ) <eric&bitpuddle,com> on Sunday May 11, 2003 @07:24PM (#5933089) Homepage
    If you are all within a reasonable distance of one another (~18k feet), setting up your own DSL CO isn't out of the question, particularly if you can all agree to share the cost.

    Choose a central location for your CO. Contract with the local telephone company to run dark (unused) copper circuits between residences that want DSL and the CO. Most telcos will do this, presumably as a back-up for businesses.

    That may or may not be the hard part. From there you'll need to purchase the network (routers, CSU, DSLAM) and customer premises (DSL modem) equipment, and turn up the network.

    It is, however, possible.
  • by puzzled ( 12525 ) on Sunday May 11, 2003 @07:27PM (#5933107) Journal
    Given the terrain you describe the most likely wireless solution is something in the 900MHz band - it'll work well through trees & such which is something that can not be said for 2400MHz solutions.

    Waverider is the first name that comes to mind, I hear Alvarion has some sort of 900MHz product in the works also.

    I'd suggest you go to and sign up for the isp-wireless list - plenty of people there will have hands on experience with what you're trying to do - much better source than all of the arm chair quarterbacks that inhabit slashdot.

  • IPAC with QoS!! RFC2549 []!
    Cheap, but maybe not that fast...
    There also seems to be a reference on slashdot []!
  • by kennyj449 ( 151268 ) on Sunday May 11, 2003 @08:00PM (#5933222)

    I've been working here for some time as their resident linux freak / tech support slave / biased security know-it-all / networking software guru / site surveyer. I don't have an easily definable job title (I just HAD to be a religious /. reader, didn't I?) but I was originally hired for tech support so that's what I get referred to as. We're based out of Lake Mary but we work just about anywhere that has adequate demand, particularly in central and northern Florida.

    We're actually working on getting an entire town in Louisiana, St. Joseph, up and running. Last I heard, we were doing it with a whopping TWO ACCESS POINTS and no range extenders. In a rural area. Two towers, two T1s, no other cabling outside of the towers themselves.

    We've also got some interesting stuff in the works for Orange and Volusia counties, under the Wireless Law vendor. Basically, insanely-secure wifi for courtrooms. Biometrics, encryption that'd make the NSA hate us, our families, and our pets if we sold it on the open market, the works. ;)

    Despite St. Louis being swamp/forest area, we've been able to get a connection using 802.11b via an integrated laptop card from as much as 2 miles *outside of town.*

    Depending on the local topography and what man-made structures might be available, we might or might not want to build a tower or two to provide coverage in your area. If you have a few tall buildings that get enough clearance above the trees, rooftops alone might suffice.

    Our antennas, which utilize some dead-sexy proprietary technology that *still* makes me drool, can keep up a connection to the average laptop for up to three miles in open-air under ideal circumstances; the worst range I've seen was 1/2-mile and that was with an *entire office building* between me and the nearest antenna, using a low-power Linksys 802.11b CompactFlash card in my PDA (Sharp Zaurus 5500 ^_^), with the antenna being only a few stories off the ground.

    We've yet to see anybody do that without using a system that looks like a cold-war-era radar dish, let alone push that kind of signal through an entire building and into the rear parking lot successfully. Even the radar-looking setups don't do that as well as we do, despite being several times the size.

    We don't even need to over-amp the antennas.

    We also implement some decent QoS that, instead of simply capping your bandwidth like a cable modem, just gives you a "fair share" of what's available.

    We can run from anything as simple as a 56k modem up to a set of full data T1s *per antenna*, the main limitation being the 802.11b protocol's limited bandwidth. This will go farther once 802.11g is finalized. In addition, we can (of course) set up range extenders with our antennas to make the most of a single pipe.

    If you're ever going to be in the Maitland area just north of Orlando, contact us and we'll see about doing a demonstration of our technology at the local testing site. We have other locations in the works in Florida, but this is the only one we currently use for demos.

    For more information, visit and read up. Contact info sits up there as well. I'm known in the company simply as "Ken" if anyone asks. :)
  • by EvilTwinSkippy ( 112490 ) <yoda@ e t o y> on Sunday May 11, 2003 @08:00PM (#5933224) Homepage Journal
    I've been using a prototype of a topology where you use highly focused directional antennas to aim at a central station with an omnidirectional antenna. The key is focusing the attentions of your remote stations onto a single source.

    I've been running the system between my office and my apartment (1/4 mile away) through trees for almost a year. I'm using off-the-shelf Linksys access points (1st gen, at that) and antennas I bought from a place in Canada. The access point in my apartment is programmed to be a client, and the "master node" just acts like a regular access point.

    The system work well through trees, though I do tend to get a lot of noise during rain storms. I don't have rooftop access in my apartment, so I'm actually shooting the signal out of my apartment window.

    If I had the remote on the roof with line of sight, I'm told the system will reach 2 miles.

    The office access point has an 8db omnidirectinal antenna the focuses the energy into a flat disk. The remote has a panel-style antenna the focuses the energy into a 20degree cone. You don't have to be too picky with the aim, I can turn the panelmount 45 degrees either way.

    Had it not worked, I was going mount the access point in a pelican case, bolt the panel antenna onto the outside, and drill a hole for the pigtail and the ethernet cable.

    I also had plans to run power over the spare 2 pair of wires in the cat-5 jack. Rather than one of those hundred dollar POE kits, I was planning on boosting the voltage at house end, and have a 5V voltage regulator ($5 at radio shack) on the other.

    Hell when I finally get laid off, that's my scheming Dotcom idea.

  • Every time an article like this is posted to Slashdot, the poster mentions that they want to use a single T1 divided by 150-500 people.

    Now, what on earth is the point of that? Why don't they all chip in on a modem for the local library or something like that? It'll cost less, and the speeds will be about the same, if you calculate in the time spent waiting in line.

    • You may be used to to ultrafast connections, but for many people a slow permanent connection is very useful. I should know, I used to have a 33kbps permanent circuit a few years ago. Just enforce caching and avoid p2p. Schedule heavy transfers between 1am and 5am. In any case, such a connection is much more useful than a metered connection like ISDN. With a metered connection you cannot check your email all the time, you cannot be on messaging services or chat much, and when browsing you have to keep an eye
  • look to fibre (Score:3, Interesting)

    by cdn-programmer ( 468978 ) < minus author> on Sunday May 11, 2003 @08:09PM (#5933271)
    Your biggest issue will probably be right-of-ways. If you can get everyone on the community to agree to a right of way then you have a number of options.

    If not - look into incorporating your own telco and see if you can get the local authorities on side.

    Physical installation will be expensive - but if _can_ look at a fiber link. Last I checked 6 conductor single mode fiber for overhead was only a wee bit more expensive than copper. Underground will probably be similarly expensize.

    Last I checked there were ethernet to fiber drivers that ran 100 base-t (2/3 of a T1) for 50 miles and cost under $1000 USD. (allied telesyn for example). This issue here is that the capital cost is not out of line and the capacity is awesome.

    With so much capacity you should be able to run local telephone dial up service and TV signals on the same fibre (but I haven't researched how). I just know there is a ton of bandwidth available.

    Furthermore the infrastructure if it is put in properly will be viable for the forseeable future. I'd say over 100 years - but with technology who knows - maybe within 5 years something comes along. You have to take that chance. It is better to spend a little extra now and have something that is solid.

    T1 will probably not be adequate for your users. But you can look at backbone links and if you do it right - other communities might join you and you can put the big ugly telcos out of their beauracratic misery.

    Good luck.
    • ethernet to fiber drivers that ran 100 base-t (2/3 of a T1)

      Since when is a T1 154 MB? Try 1.54.
      • typo. Sorry. I meant OC3 which should be 155mb/sec last I checked. T3 = 45mb/sec

        Typically a telco likes to get $500 - $1000 per month for a T1 (24 "circuits" = 24 DS0's). In europe it is an E1 (30 DS0's).

        T3 is 30xT1 so it would cost about $15,000 per month minimum and 100base-T would be billed at about $30,000 per month minimum.

        One can quickly see that the cost of physical infrastructure is pretty small when faced with billing rates like this.
  • similar situation (Score:3, Interesting)

    by elphmorgan ( 672624 ) on Sunday May 11, 2003 @08:13PM (#5933289)
    We've got a similar situation with our cohousing [] community here in Ann Arbor MI where we would like to distribute internet access to the 37 households in our neighborhood as well as the 40 households across the pond in another cohousing community. Like you the issue isn't getting the connection to the net - it's connecting all the households. Even billing isn't an issue since we have association fees we can tack onto.

    We're probably going to use a combination of cat5e in the ground (fiber was too expensive for us) and wireless (802.11g) with good antennas and maybe some mesh technology (if it's reliable and easy to maintain.) The bandhwidth shaping tools that I've read about would be nice but the expense is high and it may be one of those situations where it's best to wait for the problem before applying the solution. Good luck!

  • DIY DSL? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Wakkow ( 52585 ) * on Sunday May 11, 2003 @09:04PM (#5933488) Homepage
    I used Net-to-Net Tech's [] Point-to-point [] products to connect two places a few thousand feet apart. I emailed them a few questions and they were quick to respond.. Maybe contact them for a solution since it seems they have a wide array of products. They could probably use existing leftover copper pairs rather than trying to bury new cable/fiber.
  • What the title says. Alvarion ( is coming out with a 900mhz wireless system. The 900 mhz will blast through some trees and buildings.
  • by richone ( 21384 ) <rich@robott[ ] ['hou' in gap]> on Sunday May 11, 2003 @09:07PM (#5933502) Homepage
    Build a mesh network by stapling 802.11g access points to the backs of the cattle...
  • by netwalkr ( 562377 ) on Sunday May 11, 2003 @09:28PM (#5933568) Homepage
    I have been designing networks for a couple of years now. I believe the foundation for this particular situation is going to be wireless. Proxim has been one of the major wireless equipment providers for some time now. They have a new product call the Tsunami MP.11 access point. It is a point-to-multipoint geared towards "last mile" solutions. The AP cost about $700. You will place this as close to the center of the community as possible. Then you will receive the signal through residential receivers. You can purchase them in 5-packs for about $1,200. I agree with the other Slashdotters as far as the T1. If possible go with NxT1 (IMA) or a T3 if possible. A single T is not going to be that much bandwidth for the community. This solution is ideal because you will not have to dig trenches, place conduits, and run fiber or copper. For more information on the Tsunami MP.11 visit 11.html#ordering Any questions please e-mail me at Cheers, Netwalkr
  • BushLAN (Score:3, Interesting)

    by femto ( 459605 ) on Sunday May 11, 2003 @09:31PM (#5933581) Homepage
    Keep in touch with the BushLAN [] project. It is in the process of commercialisation and products should be available soon. BushLAN sounds exactly like what you are looking for.

    BushLAN is a low cost 'last mile' solution specifically targeted at Internet distribution for rural areas. It uses lower frequencies (VHF) than 802.11. As a consequence the signal propagates further (3-100km). If you have television reception it should work.

    I'm not directly affifialted with BushLAN, but I do work in a simliar field within the same country, so I am not completely disinterested.

  • Use 802.16 (Score:3, Funny)

    by Mooncaller ( 669824 ) on Sunday May 11, 2003 @10:21PM (#5933805)
    The correct standard for this type of application is not 802.11. IEEE 802.16 has been designed specificly for this type of application. A quick read of the earlier responces indicates most /.er are a little behind the times. This is understandable. Prior to the new standard, 802.11.whatever was the only way to go ( by default). Manufacturers and Service providers have been applying it to problems outsides its targeted domain. These entities have been marketing their products/services and thereby obscuring the definition of the domain for which 802.11 is applicable. Now that 802.16 exists, and products are coming to market, implimentors should stop missapplying the older standard and current 802.11 systems should be migrated where appropriate.
  • screw the trees - you'll get a lifetime supply of firewood and wireless broadband internet.
  • I've worked with a Canadian company called IpPlus [] located in southern Alberta which used a combination of Microwave gear from Harris along with a mish-mash of LAN style wireless gear from Waverider [].

    I think they had about 8 sites, connected in a ring topology using some Marconi ATM switches [] connected via a local ds3 or ethernet connection to the towers.

    The toplogy was basically like this:

    Customer House---802.11b---Ethernet/Tower--Microwave--Tower /Ethernet--Router/switch--Internet

    Depending on the si

  • If you do run fibre to each location, don't forget about network design -- you don't want a neighbor to cut wire in his yard by mistake five years from now and knock half the community offline until the physical layer is repaired.

    If you're not sure the optimal way to design the network topography, call your local university's systems engineering department. I'm a Ph D candidate at Boston University []'s Center for Information and Systems Engineering [], and one of the things we research is how to design topogra
  • Go for it all ... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bizitch ( 546406 ) on Sunday May 11, 2003 @11:06PM (#5934018) Homepage
    After reading this thread - one thing came to mind: If you do decide to lay fiber - go for it all!

    I mean - you could co-op everything - High Speed Internet, Cable TV and Phone for that matter.

    While wireless can offer a low-cost solution, it has many potential problems across a geographic area.

    The most effective means of distributing high speed access would definitely be to lay fiber. I mean if you decide to dig up the ground, don't screw around with copper this would severely limit you.

    Fiber would allow you to really leverage the investment of hacking up that ground - Internet would be easy, a couple of T1's multilinked together and some smart allocations of a class C of public numbers and your off and running (a T3 would be total overkill IMHO).

    But you can leverage this investment to allow delivery of Telco service as well.

    You could simply order up an ISDN PRI or two and a block of about 300 DID numbers. The best part is that at this level of service - you can get an incredible amount of competition. All calls anywhere for under 2 cents/minute any time - and I mean ANYWHERE and WHENEVER - Free of course within the Co-Op

    I recommend using this product from Sphere ( I just got certified on this product and am completely AMPed about it. It is a pure IP VOIP product that delivers the station end as regular analog phones. So customers need nothing special at their end.

    If you model your distribution method after the Bells model of hubs to CO's etc. - you could really do something very cool here.
  • rural last mile (Score:2, Informative)

    by shoestring ( 184061 ) *
    I am in a similar situation. That is I am in a rural area, and broadband solutions of DSL or cable modems are not possible here. As there is no cable system here, and the phone system CO is about 4 miles as the crow flies (longer by wire) and the wire is circa 1970.. phone modems work at somewhere between 21 and 33 Kb.
    We are using wireless. Actually I am using a linksys (with a decent antenna) and it works well going out to half a mile or better with decent antennas (15 db mini-dish). One of the new link
  • Have the telco run broadband to the local phone switch (I assume everybody has phones). From there, you folks can buy and install your own DSL equipment using the regular copper to each house.

    Actually, better still, you could get the telco to do it for you. If they'll centrally install T1, they'll also probably install DSL if there are enough customers interested. They'll put it anywhere if they have a sufficient subscriber base (30-50+ users). This has been done before in rural areas, or in new developmen

  • by sbwoodside ( 134679 ) <> on Monday May 12, 2003 @02:57AM (#5934865) Homepage
    If you have any kind of hills at all wireless should be an option. Get a nice tall tower up on top of your local hill and put an omni antenna up there. Then, at each house, point a nice high gain antenna at the tower. That's the usual star design. If that doesn't cover it, you can bridge the network into multiple stars, create for example a backbone that jumps from the T1 to a tower then to other towers or well-located houses. It will be a LOT cheaper than running any kind of new cable given the distances you quoted. Wifi you can get the kit for each house as low as $200-$300 and put up a repeater with a couple of radios and antennas for $1000 or so.

    The only mailing list that I know of dedicated to long-distance WiFi (802.11) links is wireless-longhaul []. You can subscribe here []. There's also a Wiki [] with plenty of links to projects that have successfully deployed long-distance wireless networks in all kinds of different places.

    Don't go into proprietary wireless unless you absolutely have no other option. There's some interesting new technology that's already available e.g. from Alvarion, using OFDM you can make non-line of sight connections at microwave frequencies. Eventually there will be 802.16 standards for them but right now it's not ready yet. The proprietary solutions are many thousands of dollars for each box.

  • by carlhirsch ( 87880 ) on Monday May 12, 2003 @09:10AM (#5935774) Homepage
    Assuming this is some sort of intentional community, do you really want something that will keep people holed up in their individual homes for more extended periods? Sounds like something that could break down the close-knittedness of the community.

    Pick four or five community centers, or even just one, and put a few computers in there. Instant gathering place.

    High-speed internet access in every home, you might as well be living in the suburbs. With goats.


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