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Networking The Internet Wireless Networking

How a Group of Rural Washington Neighbors Created Their Own Internet Service (arstechnica.com) 94

An anonymous reader writes with a story that might warm the hearts of anyone just outside the service area of a decent internet provider: Faced with a local ISP that couldn't provide modern broadband, Orcas Island residents designed their own network and built it themselves. The nonprofit Doe Bay Internet Users Association (DBIUA), founded by [friends Chris Brems and Chris Sutton], and a few friends, now provide Internet service to a portion of the island. It's a wireless network with radios installed on trees and houses in the Doe Bay portion of Orcas Island. Those radios get signals from radios on top of a water tower, which in turn receive a signal from a microwave tower across the water in Mount Vernon, Washington.
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How a Group of Rural Washington Neighbors Created Their Own Internet Service

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  • About time! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by NeoGeo64 ( 672698 )
    There are so many places forgotten by the mainstream service providers. Competition is a good thing.
    • by KGIII ( 973947 )

      I had to pay for new line and a CO in order to get DSL. A neighbor paid a little so that they'd extend it to them. However, I'd have just covered it but I'm glad they did. As I'm almost the furthest one out, it covers almost all of the six houses in the area. The good thing is that we're allowed to use any ISP that will service our area - the phone company can not restrict access. Prior to this they had dial-up at speeds around 20-22k.

      If you're curious as to why I'd have covered it? I'm "from away" and reti

  • Well planned (Score:5, Interesting)

    by AHuxley ( 892839 ) on Sunday November 01, 2015 @07:29PM (#50844143) Homepage Journal
    The placement of the microwave link on the water tank, the network of '10 relay points, which have multiple radios", using "5.8GHz and 900MHz frequencies, and a little bit of 3.65GHz". Long term planning "take their time to add capacity before connecting everyone who wants service"
    Tracking what relay point is down and having backup battery power for a time. The suggestion to place a "Raspberry Pi at the different relay points to do speed tests" was a good read too.
    This is really motivating and shows what a community can do with existing methods rather than waiting for more traditional networks to even be planned or upgraded or offered.
    Thanks.
    • This sort of thing of course requires a high degree of expertise that is not very common. When I lived in rural WA I looked into doing something like this, with very little information on how to go about it that didn't require getting a EE degree. Ended up with ISDN -- yeah -- and later a DS1 that took a lot of sword-rattling for VZN to provision, including several repeaters. They refused to put a DSLAM in the local phone site, and at the time Comcast wouldn't even take $ to extend a mile or two to reach
  • One thing that really strikes me about this story is how many walls the founders of this movement ran into trying to get it set up - they wanted towers, but said putting those up would be prohibitively expensive for such a small organization. Now, imagine that a municipality was able to get behind this, maybe get some state funding to offset the costs (perhaps by providing free broadband to homes with children in public schools that otherwise could not afford it) and was able to put up a better system that

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      a municipality _is_ a bunch of local citizens acting in concert for the good of the community. Texas has MUD (Municiple Utility Districts) that handle things like water and sewer in un-incorporated housing developments (Some developer buys a few hundred acres, and drops 2000 2500-5000 sq ft houses on it) the developer helps orginize the MUD, and the community runs it, and funds the infrastructure investments required to build and maintain the infrastructure.

      you would have to float a bond of some kind to bu

    • One thing that really strikes me about this story is how many walls the founders of this movement ran into trying to get it set up - they wanted towers, but said putting those up would be prohibitively expensive for such a small organization. Now, imagine that a municipality was able to get behind this, maybe get some state funding to offset the costs (perhaps by providing free broadband to homes with children in public schools that otherwise could not afford it) and was able to put up a better system that didn't rely so much on the homeowners to maintain (the article states that any homeowner who has it installed has to provide power for it for life even if they do not use it). Commercial providers would be forced to cut prices and improve service or go under.

      Commercial providers run into the same roadblocks. It is very expensive to build towers.

      Commercial providers also can't force their fees on people like a municipality. Municipality can tax residents for Internet service they don't use. When was the last time a commercial company did that?

      To suggest that municipalities would provide fair competition with for-profit companies is not understanding the economics of it.

  • by jklovanc ( 1603149 ) on Sunday November 01, 2015 @07:36PM (#50844167)

    Now if a for profit company wanted to do this they would have had to do the following;
    1. Environmental impact studies,
    2. Local consultation
    3. Easement/right of way purchase/contracts
    I am also wondering who does the maintenance/customer service for this system?

    A local group just doing something is very different than a corporation doing it.

    • Very true, corporations have their time and place to do things... as does "socialism" where in this case, a local government, even a loosely established collective of people, got together and addressed a problem that they wanted fixed.

      In a larger more populated area this kind of solution just wouldn't work, where a corporation would be doing the bureaucratic legwork and infrastructure maintenance required for a large scale operation.

      • by myid ( 3783581 )

        In a larger more populated area this kind of solution just wouldn't work, where a corporation would be doing the bureaucratic legwork and infrastructure maintenance required for a large scale operation.

        If he'd tried to do this project in San [dslreports.com] Francisco [sonic.net], the project would have been tied up for years in red tape and citizen protests.

        • If he'd tried to do this project in San [dslreports.com] Francisco [sonic.net], the project would have been tied up for years in red tape and citizen protests.

          Not to mention sued into oblivion by AT&T, Verizon and Sprint.

  • I know. I've seen me do it. I got my 24/7 internet with a routeable /29 subnet thru an internet cooperative back in the early/mid 90s. Sure, it was dialup but that's what was available at the time. We built it because everything available through dialup was metered at around 50 hours per month except for a couple ISPs that would kick you off after X hours then bitch at you if you had an autodialer that reconnected. With 20 connections, it really didn't cost a whole lot more than a regular account. Aft

  • Air-Stream http://air-stream.org/ [air-stream.org] have been doing this for almost 15 years now.

    While not an ISP people can share their internet over the network using VPN.

    It's still as relevant today since the national broadband network isnt getting to everyone especially people in valleys who cant get a service and are looking to make their own links to someone who does have it.

    WACAN are also similar http://www.wacan.asn.au/ [wacan.asn.au]

    Community networks are the way to go, take out the middle man ISPs and government snooping.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      +1 to this, there are quite a few community wireless networks around the world and is worth checking out.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_wireless_community_networks_by_region
      (look at the history as some idiot keeps deleting the page contents)

  • That is RF bandwidth that some poor, deserving cellular corporation could be using to sell more iDroid phones to suckers. You act as though the radio spectrum was some sort of publicly owned resource or something. The CEOs of AT&T and Verizon are crying themselves to sleep every night, you bastards!

  • by Applehu Akbar ( 2968043 ) on Monday November 02, 2015 @12:51AM (#50845113)

    We have three providers, one of which is the very same CenturyLink telephone company DSL cited in this article. Like all DSL, it plugs away reliably over the installed telephone copper, but the speed each user gets depends on his distance from the telco switch. Speed falls off rapidly from the 10 MHz maximum at the switch to unusably slow three wire miles away, and given the funky routing of telephone wire, that might be two blocks from the switch as the raven flies.

    The best service comes from the TV cable company. Those who are on its limited number of service thoroughfares enjoy 80 MHz, albeit with a chintzy monthly cap that prevents most users from making much use of the bandwidth. For every other house in our large, spread-out area, scattered through a maze of hills and canyons, is a commercial wireless ISP that operates just like the one described in the article. A central signal received on fiber is radiated to homes that get free service in exchange for hosting large relay antennas, which in turn fan out to surrounding individual users.

    And of the three alternatives, the WISP is the one that everybody hates. It's dog slow for all users, and all those relay links are subject to an incredible variety of interruptions. Raccoons and termites chew through feed lines. The summer monsoon and the winter snow breaks dishes. Trees grow into the relay beams at unexpected points, constantly having to be trimmed back. And wealthy owners of large houses in the boonies (there's an 8,200 square footer on my street) don't expect dialup-grade Internet service in a home they have paid so much for. Everyone who gets stuck with the WISP lusts for cable service

    • by swb ( 14022 )

      Is it just that a wireless mesh doesn't work or is it that this particular wireless mesh suffers from underinvestment or poor engineering?

      Environmental hazards would seem to apply to all outdoor infrastructure and many of the hazards specific to wireless would seem to be something that could be mitigated -- taller antennas to avoid trees, low power heaters to melt snow, hardening of equipment to discourage animals and insects. Atmospheric events are about the most difficult thing to mitigate against (activ

  • People in Rural area have been relying on WISPs for over a decade now. Lots of operations that look like this. I transitioned our company ( CyberStreet ) from dialup to this several years ago. Did most of the work building the network myself.

  • In other news, a group of rural Oklahoma neighbors create their own:

    A) Meat smoker out of a '72 Chevy pickup

    B) Outreach group to "turn gays straight"

    C) Massively-distributed methnet

    Thanks folks; I'll be [stuck] here all day. :/

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