I love stealing so much, I'll steal my internet for you!
December 31, 2007 7:42 AM   Subscribe

I'm thinking of sharing my internet with the neighbors; how can we do it fast and safe?

So we just got a new place and need to get a new router, I'm thinking of something with the letter N at the end because they seem the fastest.

I've seen examples in the past, like neighborhoodnode, of people who not only shared their internet with the neighbors, but who managed to have everyone enter through a single page (that is, you couldn't just surf the wifi, you had a certain start page like they do in the library or at an airport; after that, they can surf to where ever they want). I'd like to do that, nothing creepy or spammy, just have a basic neighborhood website that people can start with.

Has anyone here done that? What are the requirements of our computers (all mac) and the router? How insecure is it if we want to buy stuff online? Are there pitfalls that we aren't thinking of? Can we limit the amount that we share? Happy New Year!
posted by history is a weapon to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The first thing that I'd be concerned with is if they decided to download MP3s. It would be you getting the "RIAA Settlement" letter. I have no idea how Internet cafes and hotels escape such letters (do they?) so perhaps there is some leeway here. I'd be concerned about that or any activity that would be traced back to you (e.g. kiddie porn, movies, threatening emails to the White House, etc).
posted by mr. creosote at 7:53 AM on December 31, 2007

You are looking at something called a captive portal. That generally forces browsers to a staring web page. You might need software that only allows web surfing. Limiting the ability of sharing files. You might want to consider blocking port 25 (mail) also. Make people use webmail. Then you don't need to worry mass mail worms. None of this should be an issue if you are not making them pay for it, as they need to conform to your rules to use it. If this is just a goodwill gesture, web access should be more than enough.
posted by Climber at 8:19 AM on December 31, 2007

Oh, I forgot to mention that you might want to take a look here before you by a router if this is something you want to do. The dd-wrt firmware has the capabilities to do some of what you want. i think you still need a web server to host the pages that are displayed. I have used the firmware, but not the captive portal option. It is Linux firmware that replaces stock firmware. In most cases, it works better even if you don't use the extra features.
posted by Climber at 8:24 AM on December 31, 2007

I help libraries do this sort of thing. We are in a rural area so do not think too terribly much about security, though there are valid concerns certainly. There are a few levels of security you can have. The word you are probably looking for in terms of limiting the sharing amount is "traffic shaping" where you can decide that any one person on the network can't use more than, say, 25% of all downloading bandwidth or whatever.

I usually have libraries set themselves up with the ZoneCD solution which is free and pretty simple. The basic setup, shown in this picture, is that you have a dedicated PC (this is mostly if you want a totally plug and play solution that requires minimal understanding of what is going on) with two ethernet cards. I know this seems like Not What You Have, but if you know anyone who does anything with computers, they have a basement full of these. This page talks about some of the things that you can pay attention to or exert control over and there is even optional content filtering which may be more trouble than it's worth but also good to know about.

A few edge case scenarios that could happen that you'll want to decide if you care about

- someone downloading/uploading something quasi-legal like movies or music (i.e. mnight be legit, might not be)
- someone downloading/uploading something VERY illegal (kiddie porn basically)
- someone clogging the pipe 24/7 uploading or downloading anything
- someone needing tech support when something they try doesn't work (whether it's your problem or not, they think it's yours)
- network going down when you are not home & then everyone's internet is down until you get home
- security of passwords and other info on the network (this is an issue in any wifi network really)

I am not a tech expert but I follow directions pretty well and most of these are things I can get on Google and learn more about. Basically if your neighbors are super security conscious they'd want their own network but you can give them an "as is" option and try to make them aware of the concerns and then go you!
posted by jessamyn at 8:40 AM on December 31, 2007

If you're in the USA, I would personally stay far far away from doing this, unless you have a very good lawyer who can draw up an ironclad TOS for everyone using the service, absolving you of any responsibility if they do illegal things with the connection.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 9:03 AM on December 31, 2007

Response by poster: I really appreciate the responses so far, but I'm less concerned about the legal ramifications. I basically want something simple and inexpensive.

I looked at the dd-wrt and was a little frightened. This article, http://www.wi-fiplanet.com/tutorials/article.php/3666916 , suggested it as well, but I was unsure how difficult this would be for someone with no coding skills. Could I do it with something like the Trendnet TEW-631BRP 300Mbps Wireless N-Draft Firewall Router?

A good example of what I want to do is the placesite project, but I just want people to go to an already online webpage that is accessible to everyone. Thanks again for help, hiveminders.
posted by history is a weapon at 9:26 AM on December 31, 2007

My friend John built a project in 2004 called Neighbornode that does this specifically, you should check it out.
posted by lia at 9:37 AM on December 31, 2007

I think the modified firmware approach in the article you linked is a really good start. It may take some time to get configured correctly, but it's a very inexpensive yet efficient way to get your project started. My recommendation is to go the Linksys WRT54G route, which end up being very formidable routers once firmware is replaced. From there lock down p2p ports as well as others if they are taking up too much bandwidth....the opposite approach is to create two bandwidth throttle classes, one for web and one for everything else...then create additional ones per request.
posted by samsara at 11:51 AM on December 31, 2007

You should look into some thing called meraki. Not only does it automatically allow TOS and startup pages you could even charge. Plus if you know someone a few houses down they setup at mesh routers exceptionally well.
posted by DJWeezy at 12:18 PM on December 31, 2007 [1 favorite]

My ISP's Terms of Service specifically prohibits sharing with the neighbors. You might want to check that out before you proceed.
posted by jorlando at 1:13 PM on December 31, 2007

Seconding DJWeezy - I instantly thought of meraki.
posted by McBearclaw at 3:10 PM on December 31, 2007

My ISP's terms of service also prohibit sharing my Internet connection with people who are not in my house.
posted by flabdablet at 12:22 AM on January 1, 2008

Fon, if you're in a hurry.
posted by genghis at 3:51 PM on January 1, 2008

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