How to Start Your Own ISP

If you hate your Internet Service Provider (ISPs), you’re definitely not alone.

Not only are ISPs among the worst-rated companies when it comes to customer service, but they’re also often guilty of deliberate misdeeds like slowing your service and giving away your personal data. As Jordan Spencer Cunningham of Nerdology.org put it, “All ISPs are evil. Finding the least evil ISP is the trick.”

Unfortunately, many areas don’t have a lot of options when it comes to picking and choosing your ISP. That’s because the required infrastructure and local regulations create natural monopolies, and often act as a barrier to competitors. Some say that the resulting lack of consumer choice is why ISPs get such bad ratings. They just don’t put in the effort to provide a good service because they know their customers have nowhere else to go if the want to go online.

But consumers are becoming more and more determined to uncover alternatives  — and even create their own.

You’ve probably heard of Google Fiber, which can offer speeds up to 100 times the speed of basic broadband. But at the moment, the service is only available in a handle of cities across the United States. While Google does have plans to expand the service, there’s no telling exactly how long it will take before it comes to your area.

Some towns are taking hold of the reins for themselves, passing laws to build their own broadband infrastructure so they can get high-speed internet without having to deal with the big ISPs and their slow speeds, bad customer service, and high prices.

If you’re determined to escape from your local big ISP and start your own service, it is possible, and you’re not the only one. You don’t necessarily have to own a big company or have access to millions in funding to start your own ISP — these two entrepreneurial brothers, for example, started one on a rooftop in Brooklyn.

Want to escape your local ISP? Take a look at the guide below to get an idea of exactly what’s involved and how to get started.

How to Start Your Own ISP1

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Transcript for: How to Start Your Own ISP

Does poor internet service make you wish for an alternative to the big ISPs? If so, you aren’t alone. Check out these pioneers who have built their own ISP and how you can do it yourself.

Benefits of Homemade ISP

  • Personal service – No call centers.
  • Useful in emergency situations when cell towers of large ISPs no longer work.

How to build your own ISP

Whether using a Wi-Fi or fiber network, you will need to address the following:

  • Is it feasible in your area?
  • Find out if there is sufficient demand and if there are companies who will sell bandwidth.
    • Each US state has their own bandwidth suppliers.
    • Make sure you are purchasing from a reputable source.
    • Find a list of purchaser-rated wholesale bandwidth providers at wispdirectory.com.
    • Consider hiring an IT project manager to assess and negotiate with suppliers
  • Consider getting training on building a network.
    • Broadband Wireless Exchange (bbwexchange.com) offers a training program for people considering building a wireless network.
  • Get Funding – Are there any grants available to you?
    • Funding in the US may be available via the Farm Bill Loan Program and Community Connect Grants.
    • State aid is available in the UK.

Option 1: Lease services and lay your own fiber cables

  • Check if it’s possible in your area.
  • Engage lawyers to deal with red tape.
  • Buy or rent the technology required (Fiber to home Switching technology).
  • Laying cable is extensive and expensive work.
    • Will need to buy your own fiber and then have it laid.
    • Costs will range by jurisdiction but it is an expensive option.
    • In Lyddington, UK, the whole project came in at almost $120,000.
  • Lay trenches.
    • Micro-trenching can make it quicker and easier.

Option 2: Build a Wi-Fi network

  • Cheaper than laying fiber cables.
  • BBW exchange offers a turnkey solution that will service 60 – 100 users for $50,000.
  • Hardware requirements:
    • Element 1: Buying and Delivering Broadband (three options):
      • Buy a T1 connection [A T1 connection is a data transmission channel which can transfer 1.544 Mbit/s.] It costs about $1,000 per month.
        • Best for smaller network.
      • If T1 is impossible due to rurality, invest in commercial grade satellite downlink instead.
      • Larger Network: invest in DS3 [DS3 is a means of transmitting data by which one can transmit up to 45MBit/s.] Cost effective if you need the capacity of 3+ T1s.
    • Element 2: Base station antenna to transmit bandwidth (three options):
      • Small network: One antenna with clear line of sight to access points
      • Larger network Option 1: Multiple access points each fed by T1
      • Larger network Option 2: Mesh network (cheaper option)
    • Equipment Required by network customers:
      • T1 delivering broadband
      • Router (to deliver data packets)
      • Ethernet cabling and billing gateway
      • Ethernet injector
      • Cat5 cable to outdoor access point (in NEMA certified weatherproof box or CE certified in Europe) which contains the wireless radio
      • Coaxial cable which carries the radio frequency to the antenna. Antenna then broadcasts signal.

Homebrew ISP Pioneers

Löwenstedt, Germany (BBNG)

  • Tiny isolated village with a population of 640.
  • Built a 2km high speed network
  • 925 subscribers pledged a minimum of $1,345 (€1000) each.
  • Total Cost: $1,077,476 (€800k)
  • The network is then leased for profit.

Red Hook, Brooklyn (Brooklyn Fiber)

  • Two brothers were fed up with major ISPs and built a network on a grocery store rooftop.
  • 100 commercial accounts and some residential.
  • When hurricane Sandy hit, Brooklyn Fiber was back up and running before cell phone coverage was restored.
  • Offer strengths up to 1 GB dedicated throughout.

Lancashire, England (Broadband for Rural North – B4RK)

  • Despite rurality, high speed broadband is essential for any business including farming.
    • For example, form filling online and internet banking
  • Asked landowners to lay network through their land to avoid cost of digging up roads.
  • Raised $853,710 (£500k) from shareholders.
  • Dug 180km of trenches.
  • Subscription is $50 per month.
  • Offers 1 GB connection (better than many cities).

Central Illinois Regional Broadband

  • Not for profit organization which operates regional broadband.
  • Laid 103 miles of fiber optic cables.
  • Received $18 Million in Federal Grants plus state and private funding.
  • Set up because the alternative offered absurd fees and impersonal service.

In the US there are over 400 publicly or partially public owned telecom networks. For example:

  • Monmouth Independence Networks, cooperative, not for profit, local ISP providing high speed broadband in Oregon.
  • Greenlight Dunnellon Communications serves the tiny population of 1,746 living in Dunnellon, Florida.
    • A 2010 bank loan funded the building with 100 miles of fiber in the area providing fast broadband and increased economic opportunity.
  • Athens, Greece (Wireless Metropolitan Network)
    • Despite having a mainstream network, Athenians opted to create their own mesh network as it is faster and more community oriented.
      • 30 times faster than the mainstream network.
    • More than 1,000 users.

It is now recognized that high-speed connectivity is essential for a community’s economy, health care and social cohesion. It takes a little technical knowhow, and a lot of community solidarity, but building your own network is possible.

Sources

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Discussion

6 Comments to “How to Start Your Own ISP”

  1. Does bbwexchange.com exist anymore? I can’t find it when on google or a direct link. Are there any other resources to use?

  2. Hi, the http://www.bbwexchange.com link does not work? Am I missing something? I definitely want more information on this type of project. Thanks so much.

  3. Hm, looks like the site’s no longer up. You can see some of their tutorials using Archive.org here: https://web.archive.org/web/20140324154446/http://www.bbwexchange.com/howto/

  4. Sorry, Steven, looks like the site is down – but you can still access it using Archive.org: https://web.archive.org/web/20140324154446/http://www.bbwexchange.com/howto/

  5. are there federal, state or local regulations requiring licenses for a Privately Owned ISP?

  6. Lay your own fiber? There are thousands of miles of unused fiber lines already laid out.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dark_fibre

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