Apartment Internet Access
January 20, 2008 3:37 AM   Subscribe

What am I missing in my plan to take over the world network at the apartment building I live in?

The apartment building I live in was built in the early 2000's and they were smart enough to include in-wall ethernet network cable and jacks in every room of every apartment. They originally contracted out to a company to sell internet access through this network, but no one liked the company so it went out of business. The network sits dormant now.

My thought is that I could fairly easily take over the network and offer an alternative method of internet access. Currently, the only way to get "residential" internet access is through DSL (they use a closed-circuit cable system).

What technical (assuming they have Cisco equipment), political, and business issues can you foresee in a situation like this? Do you know of an apartment complex that offers this feature? What was it like? How much did it cost you?

This seems like a pretty big bite off the pie. Maybe talking the building management in to offering free wireless (to keep people from putting up their own wireless and polluting the airwaves with 20-30 visible networks that interfere with each other) would be a better, more reasonable goal?
posted by yellowbkpk to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Just a note: If you're worried about wifi for any reason (interference, etc), you should realize that once there is a wired solution in place, people are likely to add their own wireless routers to the mix so as to untether their laptops.
posted by mhz at 4:04 AM on January 20, 2008

Have you seen the wiring closet? is there equipment in place? (firewall, router,switches,etc?) or will you be providing that ? If not, who will ? If someone else will, do you get any say in what brand equipment is chosen? and what ISP provides the connection?

What kind of security are you going to offer?.... Will all wired connections be on the same subnet?, or will you VLAN them seperately to isolate everyone (might be a good idea so tech-savvy residents arent port-scanning others, or residents infected with spyware/viri arent infecting others)

How will you handle bandwidth issues?... what if someone in Apartment 3 queues up 100 torrents and sucks all the available bandwidth?

Lastly... who provides support when something breaks? What if the connection goes down? what if something in the wiring closet fails, would you have extra equipment (router/firewall/switch) laying around to use temporarily while the main equipment gets fixed/replaced ?

I'm not trying to bash your idea... I wish my apartment did this. However, i work for a small local ISP and we deal with issues like this all the time. These are just the first questions that come to my mind.
posted by jmnugent at 4:25 AM on January 20, 2008 [2 favorites]

jmnugent nails it. I run the network at my business, including the internet access, and all of the above are issues that will need resolving. I would especially recommend setting up individual VLANs for each apartment, or you're opening up a big target for hacking/virus liability issues.

The equipment to do this isn't that expensive, assuming you have to buy at least some of it in new. Cisco gear is overpriced for what it does, unless you're REALLY big - SME grade stuff will do fine for a single building. I personally use a mix of allied telesys and netgear switches and ubuntu linux routers, with some enterprise grade wireless on top. OK, we have one cisco router, but its complete overkill.

The key question is 'who's running it?' Do you personally have the skill to build and run an internet routing setup (it's not that tricky for a 1 man band, if you're the sort of guy who already builds linux servers)? Are you prepared to setup a small business and hire an accountant (or do the books) to handle the payments by the other residents to pay for the ISP connections? How do you poltically handle throttling or cutting off someone over-using the shared bandwidth, or who doesn't make their payments? (packet shaping is straightforard technically)

Politically, you'll want to get the other residents on board. Presumably you'll only offer service to those who are prepared to join in; some may want to keep their own DSL connection. You may well be more expensive for the same level of service, because you'll need to charge a premium over and above the ISP to pay for the overheads. That said, you will have some advantages regarding quota etc because you'll be a business customer.

You may want to offer wireless routers to go on the end of the the network ports in the apartments, to expand the network with wireless. There are a few systems about for managing these that are free or cheap, they're used by net-cafes, so you prevent 'freeloaders' from other apartments.

My best advice for you would be this - treat it as a proper business, rather than a cool setup between friends, with a business banking account etc. Even if you are best buddies with everyone in the block, you never know when someone will move out and turn out to be a lawyer with a mean streak. Cover your own ass. It's certainly doable with some techie skills and a basic business setup. If there's any net cafes in the area, see if they can give you pointers on a good local ISP for bandwidth and what systems they use for management.

Failing that, talk to your small local ISPs directly. You may be able to sub-contract the whole thing out to a company with existing experience of this sort of thing, with more luck than the last company!
posted by ArkhanJG at 6:10 AM on January 20, 2008

Sorry, that should say above 'and you never known when someone will move out, and the new guy will turn out to be a lawyer with a mean streak'
posted by ArkhanJG at 6:14 AM on January 20, 2008

Thanks guys, these are exactly the kind of things I was thinking about.
posted by yellowbkpk at 6:27 AM on January 20, 2008

In addition to the great comments above, you also need to think about legal aspects. What if the guy in apartment three has queued up 100 child-porn torrents? You definitely need to be able to provide the who is doing what info to authorities as needed.
posted by kellyblah at 11:16 AM on January 20, 2008

If I were you, here's what I'd do: take advantage of the existing wiring on an apartment-by-apartment basis, but keep those per-apartment networks separate.

So, let's assume the wiring from all apartments terminates at a secure location. Start with your apartment; hook all the room's wiring into a switch in that secure location, and now you should have a LAN which you can connect to your DSL connection. Voila! No wireless, and your rooms are all connected.

Assuming it goes well, there are two further steps you can take:

1. Assuming the termination is secure enough, and assuming the phone lines are nearby, feed your DSL-enabled phone line into the secure location, hook in your DSL modem there, and feed that into the switch for your apartment. Now you don't need to have a DSL modem hanging around your apartment, and the distance from the DSL-enabled phone line entering your building to reaching your DSL modem will be shorter, hopefully enough to make a difference in speed (after all, you're probably in a big building, seeing as how this company was interested in wiring it for the 'net.)

2. Assuming step 1 above goes well, help your friends within the building do the same thing with their apartments, just as a neighborly thing to do. I don't know if I'd want the support overhead of the DSL model in the secure location, but certainly helping them hook up a cheap switch to their apartment's wired ports would be a nice low-maintenance thing to do.

Then you and your friends can get speedy, reliable wired network service in your apartments, leaving the peons to their poorly-secured, unreliable and conflicting-channel wireless solutions.
posted by davejay at 4:22 PM on January 20, 2008

Oh, hey, one more thing: if you decide to go into the mini-IP business and share a LAN or internet connection with people, that very moment is when you go from casual make-sure-the-termination-point-is-well-secured mode to I'm-running-a-local-ISP-and-might-get-compromised-or-sued-or-arrested mode. Unless you're ready for the responsibility and headaches, keep the wiring between apartments separate.
posted by davejay at 4:25 PM on January 20, 2008

« Older Matrix engine into Scion xA?   |   Why do disks drive? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.