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Start Your Own ISP (startyourownisp.com)
938 points by tomcam on Jan 16, 2018 | hide | past | web | favorite | 193 comments



I started one of the first 56k dial up ISPs in Nebraska when I was 13 years old with the help of my parents. In high school I partnered with some friends after reading a CNET article about a WISP in Washington state. My friend's dad had a few businesses that needed to share a T1 line so we connected them wirelessly and sold the excess capacity to farmers in rural Nebraska and Kansas. It was an amazing experience. Working with networking gear, setting up FreeBSD servers, learning about NEMA enclosures, antennas, polarity, frequency hopping FHSS vs DSSS, 2.4,5.2,5.8GHz, and 900Mhz. We had our ups and downs and learned a lot about what gear worked the best. My senior year of high school we sold the company. I still browse my google history to feel nostalgia from those days :)


+1. I had a similar experience, starting one of the first ISPs back in Brazil, in 94-95. Me and my two co-founders came from an academic background, so we were using BITNET for a few years by then, and saw firsthand when the internet started to open up for commercial access.

Overall it was a great learning experience, but incredibly challenging. There was nothing like OP's guide (or HN, or Google for that matter), so the knowledge had to come from books, Usenet news, and mail lists. It helped that we had experience managing Unix servers and WAN networks at the University, but still had tons of things to figure out, from setting up dial-up lines, to keeping httpd servers up and running (we decided to use Linux 0.99 beta from the get-go, but it kept crashing, usually in the middle of the night; later we discovered it was a race condition in the multi-serial port card driver, which manifested only when several ports were under heavy use, hence only happening at night).

Although we could solve most of the technical challenges, we were absolutely clueless on how to run a business: selling, bizdev, billing customers, hiring and building teams, etc. I have fond memories for those (usually bad) decisions, but can't stop thinking how things would be different if I could magically go back and do it all over again :)

We quickly reached a few thousand customers, and realized it was turning into a capital intensive business - phone lines in Brazil in the 90's were crazily expensive, plus Cisco routers, server upgrades, etc. We decided to pivot towards B2B, thus becoming one of the first corporate ISPs: web hosting, security consulting, leased lines, some web development.

We sold the company 5 years later, when the market started consolidating, right before the dotcom crash.


Fellow brazilian here - would love to hear your story on a longer form if it exists.


I would love to hear more about your experience. Did you write about it anywhere?


There are various posts on DSLReports from my early days. Unfortunately a lot of the pictures I posted are no longer available. Here is an example: http://www.dslreports.com/forum/r3891399-Split-Wire-WISP


That's a great story and incidentally a similar one to another Nebraska ISP I'm familiar with (KDSI). I think they got started when a larger industrial company had excess bandwidth. Sounds like your story was a lot of fun for a high schooler. Who did you sell it to and why?


I know of KDSI! We ended up selling to a guy starting a new business called RCOM in Kearney, NE. I worked with him for half a year getting everything transitioned. We sold our Kansas operations to telco called Nex-Tech. At the time the business was funded by my good friend's dad. Collectively we decided it was best for us to focus on our further education and go to college.


>We had our ups and downs

If it was intentional, great job :)


That talk might interest you, someone doing similar in the 90s in Germany: https://media.ccc.de/v/34c3-9034-bbss_and_early_internet_acc...


+1 for hearing more about this experience. If you wrote about it, please do share a link.



Haha, this is legit. Nice find.


Wow. I forgot about that video!


That is amazing! Can you tell us more about the experience?!


This would make a great article if you write it up.


Very cool. How much did you sell for?


Hey everyone! Author here. Happy to answer questions. Thanks for posting @tomcam!

Just a quick note about me - I currently work with the great folks at common.net running an ISP that is similar but not exactly like what's described here. Look us up if you're in East Bay maybe we can get you better Internet service! This site is not associated with common.net, though.


Hi, I've been doing this for ...um 15 years or so. Generally tried to exit the business because in our area it turns out to be a money pit. However, I notice you don't mention anything about interference : we found that even in a deep rural area this is a major headache. It can be hard to find even 40MHz of clean adjacent channels so delivering tens of megabits via P2MP is not so easy and that's before you look at the issues with air access control and half-duplex. The interference picture is always changing too so just because your network works today, doesn't mean it will tomorrow. You're made of stronger stuff than me to try it in an urban area!


Yes interference and channel planning can be a big headache. I do have planned a section that will cover this but haven't finished it yet. I've typically gotten around interference problems by 1) using licensed (or at least not 5ghz, preferably full duplex) backhauls and 2) using AP antennas with narrow beamwidths (higher gain, less area covered.) I'm sure you're doing the same things if you've been doing it that long.


Actually I didn't see anything about licensed spectrum on the site, but of course that helps with backhaul and high-end subscribers. For many years we really didn't see any interference issues with P2P links @5GHz but that has changed recently. We have been deploying dishes with shrouds to cut down on sidelobe gain.

My experience has been that interference is as much a problem at the CPE side (and much harder to diagnose there) than at the AP. I've also noticed that with Ubiquity/Mikrotik-grade radios in the 5GHz spectrum you can easily get interference from your own co-located radios at the same site, using different channels (because they are not so good about suppressing out-of-band radiation).


Shrouds should help against out-of-band radiation. I'm no expert but I assume that they do more harm in a single radio environment than without but they should help when you have multiple radios next to each other.


Not only out-of-band, but also in-band interference from local and remote transmitters (whether direct by transmitters operating on the same channel, or indirect via out-of-band harmonics transmitted by low-cost radios).


Hi Graham, nice site, love you are giving back! I've also done a few Ubiquity design/install projects.

Couple of things I'd suggest. (take/or leave) You are clearly super knowledgeable in all the products you've mentioned, but it seems like the audience for this site is the newbie trying to break into the industry. With that in mind, I'd try to stick to a single product recommendation, and deep dive into it. For instance, in the pick a hardware platform you've listed four options, consider picking one, and if you feel the need to dump your extensive knowledge of the others, then perhaps do it in another section/addendum.

Consider hosting this where you can build a community. Github pages does this sort of thing for free.

Again, thanks and good luck with the site!


Good advice, thanks. I have struggled throughout with knowing when to be more specific and when to be more general, although I do try to pepper in a lot of 'if you don't know what to do, do this' type advice.

I've been trying to build the community around this matrix chatroom: https://riot.im/app/#/room/#startyourownisp:matrix.org I'm not really a developer by trade so Github isn't really a go-to solution for me, good thought though!


I disagree a little. I'd rather you overshare by default so we don't miss an opportunity to learn something. The kind of people who will actually go deploy ISP's vs talk about them will not fret over 4 vs 1 device. They'll just email you for clarification. :)

I do like the idea of simple, base recommendations with context-driven extras. Plus, in-depth guides on what you found each piece of equipment useful for, common situations you ran into with equipment or deployments, how you dealt with them. This kind of thing could be like a blog you do regularly as you go so it's not too time consuming. A small community could help you curate it or answer common questions on a forum or something.

Anyway, thanks for your efforts as I found all that info useful in putting together cost ranges for some people. Personally, I'm wanting something similar for fiber maybe like Sonic does or those folks in Britain rolling it out in rural areas. The wireless I'm collecting for others or just as a fallback option for any project I get into if fiber is too infeasible.


Thanks for the reply. Github pages used to be aimed purely at developers, but I think it's pretty mainstream now. If you've managed to get a web site up, then you won't have any problem with this. Happy to help if you have any questions PM me.

I checked out riot.im but honestly I found the interface really confusing. Also, the lack of integration to a major auth service like Google/Twitter/Github/etc is a real turn off for me.


> I checked out riot.im but honestly I found the interface really confusing. Also, the lack of integration to a major auth service like Google/Twitter/Github/etc is a real turn off for me.

Matrix is decentralized, using centralized auth wouldn't work.

You could even host your own matrix homeserver to talk in that room. (like email, or XMPP)


Gotcha, makes sense. I'm hosting on Firebase right now which seems fine and is close enough to free. Would there be a tangible benefit to moving to Github Pages? It wouldn't be difficult, it's a static site built with Hugo.


The main tangible benefit is that others can directly interact with each other and the content in one place using the built in collaboration tools.

It would be easy to move. Just upload the web site files to a Github repository with index.html in the root path, and turn on Github pages in the setting tab.

Other benefits that immediately come to mind are: - Anyone can submit suggestions, these are called Pull Requests. - Eventually you can add trusted community members as collaborators and they can edit pages directly. - There is already a massive community that know this interface. - It's free for public sites. - Last but not least, it's super easy to edit the site, just do it directly in the browser, no need for builds, deploy scripts, etc.


If what you have now works for you, there's no point in switching (especially just because someone on the Internet said so).


Just so you know, your project is referenced on https://diyisp.org/

Also there's this mailing-list (in english) dedicated to sharing knowledge between DIY ISP, a database and map of DIY ISP[2], this series of blog posts (in french) documenting how to build an ISP[3] and a wiki page centralizing resources about building a non-profit ISP[4] on the FFDN[5] wiki (Non profit ISP Federation from France).

[1]: https://lists.ffdn.org/wws/info/diy-isp

[2]: https://db.ffdn.org/

[3]: http://blog.spyou.org/wordpress-mu/?s="comment+devenir+son+p...

[4]: https://www.ffdn.org/wiki/doku.php?id=documentation

[5]: https://www.ffdn.org/en


Great info thank you! And thanks for the link back. All great info and I've had a lot of questions from people outside the US which is unfortunately where most of my experience is so these will be great resources to hand out.


I noticed on [1] that you list 8.8.9.9 as Google's DNS server. Did you mean 8.8.4.4? If I `dig @8.8.9.9 ..` I get no response.

[1] https://startyourownisp.com/posts/build-your-infrastructure/


They may have meant 8.8.8.8 as well.


Woops I think so! Thanks nice catch!


Why use Google DNS? We have no idea what's being done with the data, and 'apt install bind9' + two configuration options is enough to run your own.


Agreed that this is a better solution but the point of the site is to get from 0 to 1 customer as simply as possible and setting up a DNS server adds a complication. Another HN user recommended opennic, though - I might change the recommendation from Google to something like that.


I see. OpenDNS would be another, but I'm not sure who owns them (iirc they were bought by someone that made me go "ah, no more OpenDNS for me" but I might misremember). Opennic I didn't know of, I'll check that out next time I need a resolver somewhere :)


Hey Graham. Do you pay Comcast/AT&T to connect to their ISPs? If so how much? What is the benefit of setting up your own ISP if you need to connect to one of these giants anyways.


In some cases yes you are buying an upstream connection from Comcast/AT&T/Centurylink/etc. I actually have a note about that specifically on the site, as it happens! (https://startyourownisp.com/posts/fiber-provider/#overview second paragraph)

Things to note - you're not buying a regular residential or even a business line, you're (usually) buying a dedicated Internet Access line and dealing with an entirely different group for sales/support. It does seem kind of strange at first but I think the reality is that the raw bandwidth isn't one of the main costs for those companies, it's the support/last mile build&maintenance etc that's expensive to them - so if you're willing to give them some money and take that part off their hands they don't seem to mind.

Also - there are plenty of other companies selling fiber that don't also sell residential Internet products, so you're not always buying from them.


That is a really interesting nugget of information. Does this mean that a neighborhood could build a co-op ISP and share the costs?


yes.


Great work Graham! I have been following your blog.

1. What is your advice for WISP that operate internationally to get upstream connection?

2. Can you also include about using LTE instead of just WiFi?


You'll need to do a lot of traffic analysis to make a cost/benefit analysis of purchasing international capacity.

Transit is likely to be cheaper until you get big enough to hire someone to do this analysis for you. At that point, they will probably look at purchasing some small amount of transit from a larger ISP (e.g. Megaport, Verizon, etc) to allow you to peer freely with your largest sources of traffic. E.g. if you have a lot of Korean families who stream a lot from Korea, it might make sense to get a gig or two of bandwidth to Korea, and putting a router there to peer with Naver, etc. rather than paying for those 1 - 2 Gbps of transit. But it's probably not really going to make sense until you're in the 10's of Gbps.


Good questions. I know very little about international fiber markets, unfortunately. I do have a fair amount of experience deploying LTE in fixed wireless environments, though. I'll work on adding some of that to the site and feel free to reach out to me with questions.


Hi Graham, thanks for authoring and sharing such an interesting topic!

My main question is, how is the latency of these wireless networks? How well do these roof antennas perform in rain or covered in snow?

Is gaming suitable with wireless ISPs such as common.net?

And finally, what are the biggest complaints from your customers?


> what are the biggest complaints from your customers?

The other questions I think were answered below but this is a great one so I'll answer it directly. Biggest complaints that I currently see / would expect people to see:

1) No public IP addresses (this is addressed on the site and elsewhere in the thread)

2) No TV package, have to cut the cord

3) Can't provide service everywhere. "My neighbor can get it why can't I?" Well .. your house is 1 story buried in trees, unfortunately.

4) Sometimes wireless is just weird and there are things that don't work, especially when you're optimizing for a cheap home install. Some customers have a bad experience and as hard as we try we can't ever get it much better.


No the OP but this is my thing so I'll answer:

These numbers are from an 802.11ac based network using proprietary MAC (Mikrotik NStreme), YMMV.

Here's a 2 mile link @780Mbps modulation rate, tested with ping -s 1500:

72 packets transmitted, 72 received, 0% packet loss, time 71108ms rtt min/avg/max/mdev = 1.051/3.132/26.567/4.466 ms

Here's a 10 mile link @650Mbps modulation:

122 packets transmitted, 122 received, 0% packet loss, time 121164ms rtt min/avg/max/mdev = 0.984/2.174/20.479/3.260 ms

And finally here's stats over the two links combined (the path between my office and civilization):

68 packets transmitted, 68 received, 0% packet loss, time 67102ms rtt min/avg/max/mdev = 1.755/4.471/14.968/3.658 ms

Note that if you allow too much traffic on these links they will saturate and QoS will go to crap. So careful traffic shaping is in order. They are half-duplex so achievable throughput is much lower than the modulation rate (these links are delivering me around 250Mbits/s).

At unlicensed frequencies (2-6GHz) snow and weather are generally not a problem. You do have to choose antenna design wisely : the satellite dish type antennas that have a separate reflector can get snowed up, but people here in snow country are aware of that issue and brush the snow away. Rain fade is not a practical problem : you need some link received power margin for reliable operation and the worst that happens is rain eats into that a bit. Lightning is a much bigger issue in my experience: you need to be aware of proper grounding techniques (which can be expensive) and you need to be prepared to replace some gear every year due to EMP damage. Also fyi you want to at all costs avoid deploying CPE antennas on a roof. The roof is a nightmare for access, insurance costs, risk of causing leaks, and potential injury. For that reason WISPs will try to mount on a eave, soffit etc rather on the roof surface.

My son uses our network for gaming and while he does complain quite often about QoS, when I investigate the problem is _always_ with our upstream provider or the server end and never to do with our network.

OP stated above that he is using licensed spectrum for backhaul (probably 11 or 18GHz) and therefore will have better latency (full-duplex radios and hence lower MAC overhead).


Also very interested in knowing average latency numbers for your network, Graham.


Most of our customers see 3 to 12 ms round trip times to the edge of our network.


That's incredible, thanks. Can't wait to dump Comcast.


Hey! Just wanted to say that although you haven't come to my house yet, everyone I've talked to in Alameda loves you guys. Having worked at an ISP startup, I know how tough it is to succeed -- hope you guys manage!


I know this varies greatly based on location but it would be good if you could include a section on legal challenges given that there are many municipalities actively trying to discourage any sort of competition.

Secondly, looking at common.net, how did you arrive at 75Mbps as the offering speed?


I actually have in my plan to include a section like that, not quite there yet though. But in general legal challenges are less of a problem than you might think - most of the legal challenges you hear about with running an ISP come from things like who owns/is allowed to use conduit, right of way for trenching new lines, those kinds of things. With wireless you sidestep all of that.

75mbps is what we feel like we can reasonably achieve across our entire user base. Most of our customers are up to double that.


Also I should add - what I've found is that the municipalities are somewhere between neutral and really excited to have another provider in town, as long as you're not putting too much ugly equipment on people's houses. Sometimes the municipality is a really great partner and will help find relay sites, etc. It's the incumbent cable cos who don't like the competition.


Cool, are you looking to expand inland (Danville, San Ramon etc.) at some point?

I'd certainly be interested in an option other than Comcast. However, I do admit to being spoiled with the 200+Mbps that I'm currently getting.


Hey Graham, I'm in Oakland in a six story building downtown. Currently have DSL with Sonic, but am getting impatient with their fiber rollout in the East Bay. Any chance of getting service from Common outside of Alameda?


Yes. Sign up for the service on the site, that will get you in the queue. Also email me with your address (graham at common.net) and I'll take a look at the building specifically.


Wow, I've been shopping for WISPs in the South Bay and pricing seems to be an order of magnitude higher ($20/Mbps/month or higher). What your secret? Shorter links and higher density?


How dependent is this on flat land and no trees? This would be great for northwest Arkansas, but we have lots of trees and hills. We are stuck with only Cox, and ATT in some places.


Generally you need unobstructed line of sight, so you need to go around or above trees. Sometimes you can mount an antenna _on_ a tree, but only sometimes.

Unfortunately, to rain on the parade a little: note that it is hard using wireless (due to technical limitations to do with Shannon capacity) to compete with a copper coax provider. It really doesn't work notwithstanding the OP's claim that they can deliver 75Mbits/s to subs. I really don't know how he is doing that unless they are all fed with dedicated point-to-point links (which won't scale and costs $$).


Not surprising, although I still believe their could be opportunity in the rural areas, whose only option is satellite, which is both expensive and slow. Just getting that line of site is difficult. Thanks for the info!


Yes, WISP is fine when there is no terrestrial alternative. That's really its niche.


I noticed the part on IP, is it true that the termination points for a customer do not have a public ip address? Isn't that an issue for your customers?


It is an issue, and it's a tricky one to solve. It's getting much harder to get a hold of public IPv4 addresses and lots of smaller providers are using NAT instead. It's not a total show stopper - the vast majority of customers don't even notice and only a few actually need it enough to not use the service, and for those you can probably come up with clever ways around it (like a VPN) but it's definitely a problem. I think the best way out is IPv6 (but of course we've been saying that for decades).


Just be ready with a story when Law Enforcement show up asking you to identify whoever used one of your IPs to commit a crime on such and such a date in the past.


That's true, I've been there! I've never had them be unreasonable about the situation but maybe I've just been lucky.

The real scary one was servicing a relay site on top of a bank late at night and the cops showing up guns blazing thinking the place was being robbed ;)


I had US Secret Service show up at my office once, demanding information on an external NAT IP. We had 10k NAT'd devices behind that IP. Apparently some doofus wrote on some govt. website they were threatening the president. A warrant later (which took < 1hr to get!) I told them everything I could, which was "Oh that traffic was to this entirely different legal entity, you need to go talk to them now."


Hi graham, really neat site! One recommendation, you currently recommend google dns. What do you think of opennic[1]?

1: https://www.opennic.org/


Great idea I'll take a look and consider changing the recommendation.


What are the advantages of LTE for fixed wireless networks?


Good question. Off the top of my head: 1) much better wireless performance, higher modulation at lower receive signal levels. 2) easier channel planning - you use the same channels across all your towers and the core figures it all out. 3) you can potentially get roaming agreements with carriers (I don't know of anyone who has successfully done this but apparently it's feasible)

Big disadvantage is cost - you have to run a core which is very expensive ($100k+) Or you can use BaiCells and they'll rent you use of their core for fairly cheap.


I would very much recommend against this - off-the-shelf core networks are shit. Look up "SS7 vulnerabilities" on Google to see what I mean... and yeah your LTE core network would be based on that.

LTE itself is good but you'd need to build a proper core network for it - at the moment none of the off-the-shelf gear you can buy is any good.


What an amazing thing you've done taking the time to share your knowledge for free with everyone - thank you!

This is very timely for me. I actually had just started paying a consultant to help me plan out a WISP, because it's so overwhelming starting out because you don't even know what questions to ask to get started (the internet is a great resource for so many things... but much less helpful when you don't have well-formed questions!). So far everything I'm seeing lines up with what I've researched myself or what my consultant has helped me with, so this seems to be an amazing free resource!

I even already learned something in the first couple sections - I had been using Google Earth Pro to scout potential tower locations, and I knew what a viewshed was, but I thought I was going to have to pay for ArcGIS or another program to generate them. For some reason I thought Google Earth Pro could only do elevation profiles! It's cool you mentioned using a drone; I was already thinking of doing that and it's awesome to know that's not a weird thing to do. Have you heard of drone photogrammetry[1] before? It's probably overkill but it seems like an interesting concept for generating high resolution viewsheds (i.e. taking foliage and other obstacles that won't show up on a topographic map into account).

My consultant helped me find a fiber backhaul solution; CenturyLink fiber dominates my area so I'm either going to be buying transit directly from them or buying transport to an internet exchange at the nearest metro area (the latter sounds way more fun to me and has some interesting peering options). But I'm still at the point of evaluating the customer base. So one thing that I'd like to see is more details on how to make first contact with potential customers to gauge their feelings towards a new ISP. So far I'm thinking of buying a list of mailing address from a mailing list broker, then mailing out postcards with a link to a Google Forms survey (and maybe an alternate option of just calling me if they don't currently have internet service). But I don't know how this is typically done.

I'd also like to see a section on skillsets that an ISP operator should develop. I started studying for the CCNA because I want to be able to wrap my head around the carrier-grade networking that will belie the business. It would be interesting to hear your opinion on how much you can punt on these kinds of skills vs. what you really need to know, or even when you should just hire the work out.

I also signed up to take a course on fiber optic outside plant planning because some day I'd like to level up to being a FTTH ISP. That's a whole different ballgame since you basically have to operate a construction company to plow/blow/splice all the fiber, deal with all the permitting, insane CAPEX etc. I know that's getting way ahead of myself and I should just focus on only WISP-related things to start but that's what I wish I could do if I were a millionaire. But if you have any experience with fiber ISPs I would be really interested in seeing that on your website as well (later!).

Another cool topic to cover (sorry if I missed it) would be the whole process of putting up an actual tower - I've heard that it can often be as cost-effective to erect your own rather than leasing (like pays for itself in 2-3 years). I was just reading a series of blog articles[2] a couple weeks ago by a guy who put up a ham radio tower that had lots of very interesting info and pics.

[1]: https://cloudrf.com/drone_photogrammetry

[2]: https://morsetutor.com/2014/09/tower-time-part-1/


There is free/open source software that will compute viewsheds for you, and data downloadable from the USGS. In times past I did a lot of this but really you just need to go look with a telescope or a camera on the end of a long pole. But note that the work you do to figure out if you can provide service to a prospective customer can easily exceed the lifetime value of that customer!

The Post Office (in the US anyway) will mail a postcard to every household in a defined area for reasonable cost.

Remember to get good insurance if you construct or climb towers.

Honestly I really question your sanity though. Think of all the people who decide they are going to open a restaurant: we shake our heads at the large subset of them who have absolutely no restaurant experience. We know that in order to make money at a restaurant you at least need to absolutely nail the whole making food that people like to eat and making the place pleasant and inviting and all that (execution). If you don't have that, you're doomed for sure. And then some large proportion of even the experienced restaurant folks still fail -- we look at their efforts and shake our heads "well they should have known this town doesn't have a big enough market for a fine dining place", and so on.

As someone who does know all about how to build and run a wireless ISP, I'm reading your post like how most folks look at a doomed new restaurant opening.

Sorry to be a party pooper but I figure I may save you some $$$. I think at least you need to be doing this in a place where there is _no_ competition besides satellite. If there is even just regular LTE service people will scrape by with that rather than pay you for better service. If there are traditional providers (Coax/HFC, DSL) then forget about it.


I presume you're familiar with altheamesh.com? You might find them interesting (based locally)


I really just want to know what framework you use for the site - is it just Material Design?


I'm using Hugo static site generator with this theme: https://github.com/digitalcraftsman/hugo-material-docs


In Alameda and you use Go. Woot!


I'm in East Bay, can I have a link?



Wow, this is fascinating! I would love to invest and start a wireless ISP on the eastside of Seattle. Suppose you have an area that is flat with lots of exposure, where everyone hates Comcast (maybe that last part is superfluous). I would think you'd find plenty of programmer customers if you have a say 200 mbit wireless connection without bandwidth caps (or maybe something insane like 10 tb/month). This seems like a much better area to invest in instead of putting more money in my 401k. It's not so much much money, less than two year's 401k contributions to run it for a year and see if it catches on.

I hate comcast with a passion, they are on the only provider in my area. Here's another fantasy, I imagine two points of presence, one at my house. I run fiber to my house as part of this business, then I've got infinite capacity. Who's up for this?

How much does it cut out if it rains, probably that is a problem here.


Hey NotSammy! That's exactly what this is about, hope it helps you get started!

Rain can be planned around. Rain has a very predictable effect on wireless connections (called rain fade) so what you do is look at the heaviest rain storms from the last few years and put that in to the wireless link budgets and make sure you're broadcasting loud enough and your links are short enough that they won't fail in a rainstorm.

Then of course you also have to spend some extra time making sure all your devices are weather proofed properly.

There's no reason this can't work in a heavy rain area. Heavy tree cover is a bigger problem, though.


This sounds interesting. I am in Seattle and also hate Comcast with a passion. My roommate has a similar hate of Comcast. If I could get 200 mbit at a similar cost to what I am paying now it would be an instant transition.


Honestly, if the primary value proposition was "fuck your cable company, here's how to get internet without paying them" you could probably motivate some sales even if the price and service were the same.


I'm on the east side too. Seattle has many more providers than the east side. Where I am there is only Comcast and much slower dsl (20mb). DSL comes with a bandwidth cap. I have the standard comcast 1tb/month limit, but with an xbox, it's easy to use 100 gig just for a couple of giant games. I can see it wouldn't be too hard to use a terabyte.


It seems like there'd be a market for a "ISPaaS" style company. This company would consult on the setup, in the style of this guide, but would remote-admin all the gear, keep track of updates, security settings, make sure everything is documented, run 24/7 NOC monitoring, spot bottlenecks early and recommend upgrades, review site access contracts (or provide standard contracts), run billing and customer service etc. Basically, all the things that are easier and cheaper to run at scale. Their business model would be to take a cut of billing. The local owner would scout, deal with negotiating site access and provide the capital. The ISPaaS could provide detailed standard/lightly customised installation documents that could be handed to local contractors, or handled by the owner. They could also maintain a stash of marketing collateral and website templates and of course provide a forum for network owners to share ideas and best practices.


> It seems like there'd be a market for a "ISPaaS" style company.

A few UK companies (easynet springs to mind) had "virtual ISPs" where you pay to use all their infrastructure (hosting, email, dialup, etc.) and get branded pages / etc.

I don't think any of them have survived to the modern era though.


(author here) It's possible that this could turn in to something like that. When I originally started writing it that's exactly what I had in mind, actually - but I have since started working with common.net and I'm quite happy there.

If this is something people are interested in though reach out to me! I may be able to line something like this up.


I am very interested in this. Making it dead simple to set up an ISP would be a very awesome thing.


shoot me an email graham at startyourownisp.com.


Sent!


Australia specific, but: https://www.telcoinabox.com.au/


The eastside is a really promising target for a WISP. I've done some tinkering with HamWAN (the top of Eastgate Park&Ride has great line-of-sight to Seattle), but it's strictly non-profit and doesn't cover the eastside too well due to an abundance of hills and tall buildings in the way. If one could peer in a fiber-connected building in downtown Bellevue, and beam that from the roof to a couple tower sites... you might just have a WISP.


This is exactly the market for 5G cellular, btw. You will have your pick of carriers in a couple years that can provide you with this service...


This is why we're starting to run fiber. 5G and tree's don't mix well.


I'm also in Seattle and would be interested in working on this if you're looking for partners, shoot me an email? magrimes@mtu.edu


Great work! I recently moved to a rural area. My options were dialup, satellite or WISP. I chose to sign up with the WISP and it has beat expectations so far.

It’s run by 2 older guys who do software dev in Boulder. They use all Ubiquiti gear, backhaul with microwave and then directional WiFi between the houses.

It’s quite impressive. We’re in a heavily mountainous area, handling ~2k vertical feet and ~20 miles back to a fiber line.

Now if only I could get symmetrical 20mbps. Currently at 5/2 and it is a bit slow. From what I understand they recently got licensed for some new spectrum. Fingers crossed!

Watching them has really made me want to either join them or work on my own WISP.


It's surprisingly feasible to do just that (hence why I made the site!) almost everywhere I go in the U.S. and even on a recent trip through Italy I see telltale signs of WISPs. I think it's a lot more common than people realize.


I had looked into doing something similar around 10 years ago. A couple of things I found useful that aren't mentioned:

Find a program that can measure the propagation of EM waves(for a WISP that's normally microwaves) Quite a few are listed at http://www.astrosurf.com/luxorion/qsl-review-propagation-sof...

I really liked the book Deploying License-Free Wireless Wide-Area Networks[1] if you're completely new to large scale wireless.

[1] http://www.ciscopress.com/store/deploying-license-free-wirel...


(author here) great suggestions, thanks. If you don't mind I'll probably add these links to the site somewhere.


My very first real job at 16 was a WISP that served a small town in Arizona (~8k pop), by having a microwave tower on top of a hill in the middle of the town and just tying a few t1s in. The factor that got this WISP traction though was that we were doing family friendly filtering for customers, and in a religious town that went over pretty well. I left because I ended up doing too much of the work for $6 dollars an hour and I was just discovering "hacker culture" and started to disagree with the filtering we were doing.

I think my main question about starting a WISP these days is how the hell can I find out who to talk to about getting access to a certain tower and if there is fiber at the tower available for tie-in.

My grandparents live in a mountain village that gets lots of tourists in the summer, and it's in a valley with a large tower on top of one of the mountains that has los for the entire valley, but I can't seem to figure out who to ask about costs/contracts etc. With the tourist influx though I could easily see it being fairly profitable, and there is no other ISP option besides sat and frontiernet.


(author here) This is actually probably the hardest part of the whole thing - finding places to put the equipment and negotiating leases with all the right people.

If it's an actual cell phone tower you're looking at you can usually find it on the FCC website and find out who manages the tower. Most cell phone towers are managed by a third party management company (like Crown Castle or American Tower). The management company can usually tell you if there's fiber although their info is often outdated or just wrong. Even if the tower is owned and managed directly by a cell phone company they are still required to allow you to collocate (FCC!) but they will usually drag their feet through the process - plan on 9-12months and lots of red tape.

As for finding fiber - you can use a paid solution like fiberlocator.com. You can also drive around and look for fiber infrastructure, although admittedly it's hard to recognize if you don't know what you're looking for (or even if you do.) Frustratingly even when you find a company with fiber in the area they usually won't tell you where exactly the termination points are. You can sometimes give them a list of addresses and they'll give back yes/no for each one, though.


I keep track of fiber deployments in Chicago by looking at the city's permit database (which is public and has a pretty usable search UI hooked up to it). Might not be as easy in other cities but I'm wondering if it suggests a general strategy of looking to local government for help in finding fiber. Maybe something as basic as finding the guy who issues permits to dig up streets and asking if he remembers who's been laying conduit recently and where. No idea how well this would work in practice outside of Chicago.


As a side note, depending on the municipality/county, there are GIS databases that show who owns the land and some basic information on them.

A Google search for "<muni> GIS map" usually has some pretty promising leads.


> managed directly by a cell phone company they are still required to allow you to collocate (FCC!) but they will usually drag their feet through the process

No way! Is that only for ISPs or could I get a ham repeater up there if I had enough time/money?


I believe you could put a ham radio up there but it's quite expensive - most tower contracts I've seen are $1200-$2500/month. Also if the tower is already full (at it's structural capacity for wind loading) then you would have to pay for upgrades before you could hang your HAM (which would be tremendously expensive!)


Uf! Yeah, that's pretty spendy but not out of line with what I expected.

Very cool though, always awesome to hear how this stuff works in practice.


There's a small market for "filtered ISPs."

There are Christian ones.[1] There are Jewish ones.[2] And there are ultra-orthodox Jewish ones that allow only a short whitelist of sites.[3] It seems to be a declining business; "kleenweb" and "koshernet" are gone. "crosswayisp.net" is still selling dial-up.

[1] http://www.christianbroadband.com/ [2] http://www.thejnet.com/ [3] http://www.yeshivanet.com/faq/index.php


If you can't figure this out - don't do business...


In the middle of LA and I only have 2 providers, 20mbps from ATT or 60 from Spectrum aka TimeWarner. Realistically I get ~50mbps from TW. I know that the LA area has TONS of internet access issue, where only newer buildings might get fiber. Even at work it was a whole ordeal for my company to get fiber to the building. This kind of solution in a city setup like LA, where most of it is flat, it rains 2ice a year and barely has any trees (palm trees don't cover much), seems ideal!


Someone please set it up in Hollywood


I have been wanting to do this in Phoenix, AZ. We have then ultimate duopoly between cox and century link and no other alternatives for most neighborhoods. I find it perplexing and think that market exists to offer better service. I have some experience launching an ISP back in Pakistan when I was still a teenager but this guide is exactly the kind of motivation I needed to get me going.


You will have to hook into Cox or CenturyLink, it's not really competition I don't think.


Other companies have fiber around the Phoenix metro area too, including SRP (the power company) to major buildings and along the paths they run power lines. http://www.srptelecom.com/darkfiber/networkmap.aspx


Guide seems like a great fit for people trying to be on the ISP side of projects like Althea Mesh http://altheamesh.com/use-cases/wisp


This reminds me of these guys out in Brooklyn building out a sick fiber network.

http://bkfiber.com/

They have some of the fastest speeds in NYC and they had uptime surpassing numerous big names like Spectrum and Optimum after Sandy.


Their speeds don't seem very fast: http://bkfiber.com/plans-service-areas.php

With Verizon Fios you can get 100 Mbps symmetric at $80/month. (Also, why are bkfiber's speeds not symmetric? I thought all fiber connections had upload == download.)


Even that is pretty weak... Comcast offers 1000 down for 80 dollars a month in my area (MD in DC metro). I would expect a city to do just as well...


But it's comcast (I had comcast in MD in DC Metro). So having that speed doesn't mean your service will actually will work. Dealt with them at home and as a business. Awful. Just awful.


Hah, I don't have it yet so I don't know :) currently, I get 100 down. So is your advice to steer clear of 1000 down and just go with a standard cable/tv plan then since that's all I'll get anyways? I was hoping to forego the TV plan and just use netflix/crunchyroll/etc for the same price and 900 more down. :(


Yeah exactly - comcast will let you speedtest at that speed, but do you get that speed off Netflix?

These guys are just a small business trying to deliver a high quality network.


Wow, $75 for 15/3... I wish them well but that is seriously not competitive at all.


I forgot to mention, these guys don't just optimize their speed test to show high results.

They are getting real unthrottled results from their users who have had similar speeds from Spectrum / Timewarner / Optimum.

I think their pitch (at least a few years ago) was that they would deliver the actual speeds they are promising equally.


I think when they got started they had a very low subscriber base and were very competitive.

I'll admit though I was paying $100/month for 300/15 in Bushwick before I moved. It's probably hard to remain competitive.


Surprised no mention of Mikrotik in your vendors list. Ubiquity are great though and would also be my first suggestion.


(author here) I debated adding MikroTik because I heard a rumor that they were backing off on their wireless products and focusing more on routing / switching. So I should at least add them as an option routing/switching hardware.

But then they just released a 60Ghz short range radio ... so maybe the rumor was wrong!


Any links about the rumor? That would be interesting if they switched directions


I think it was something I heard in person .. can't remember where now! Probably at Wispapalooza.


From what I've observed, a while back they at least stopped selling their products in the US and then appeared again with FCC approval and limited radio frequencies in the US-models. Non-US -models are unlimited and did not seem to disappear off the shelves during that time. All of the products available today, to my knowledge, come in both US and Non-US -variants.

Having been employed by an ISP and decided to do something with less night time hours and more floors above ground with windows, I have the habit of doing free consultations (meddling) in order to stay up to date.

Currently I warmly recommend Mikrotik (not their CRS-series though) since they have very little limitations. The most recent case involved pre-purchased AirOS-devices and it's lack of virtual AP:s. Why I find this a drawback is how Ethernet and Internet Protocol are designed. It was never meant to be that customers should share broadcast domains, a privilege that enterprise customers are granted but consumers rarely are.

To make a first class network experience for both ISP and customer, give every legal entity their own broadcast domain and subnet (read: routing in access layer). As WISP:s, you should be conservative on allowing unnecesary brodcast-packets to propagate, especially through half-duplex links. This also defends your network from rogue DHCP and what not that might bring the entire network more or less down. I've designed a few FTTH-networks this way and these networks have never been disturbed by customer shenanigans.

I route because my cheap devices can route ;)


Would it be feasible to provide an alternate to fiber for intranet within an ISP over a city using FSOC (freespace optical communications)? I kind of doubt it is practical but it seems like having some amazing high bandwidth safe way to transmit data from private homes rooftops over significant distance would solve another one of the technical/logistical hurdles (digging streets and laying fiber) keeping monopolies in place.


I would not use free space optics for this but there are licensed wireless backhauls that can do this with high enough capacity and reliability. Feel free to contact me directly (contact info in the about me section of this site) for more info.


FSO was one of neatest things I learned to solve the "fiber is expensive to run in cities" problem back when I studied wireless. Just one class on that. I'd like to know why you recommend against FSO for this, if there's any time you would recommend it for smaller players, or drawbacks compared to LTE. I just haven't seen anyone bring up FSO in a while and wondered why.


Possibly you know more about it than I do! When I've used it (admittedly only once) it was very susceptible to anything in the air (dust, rain, snow) and was not very reliable over even a very short distance (less than 30meters iirc). I guess I can see how it could work with lots of buffering so there's not much packet loss but it seems like that would negatively affect latency.


Well, they told us they work around a mile or so in good conditions with more in near-perfect conditions. They could miss a lot of packets if weather interference happened. So, they were often paired up with another link (slow wired or fast wireless) as backup for highest-priority stuff. They were also sold as more secure from taps. They were also really expensive back when I studied them. Aside from being low volume, that was probably because (as our course materials said) they were deployed in areas where laying fiber was really, really expensive. So, maximizing profit meant charging significantly less than that but not too much less, ya know? ;)

A long time ago, I looked it up again to see what the cheapest, budget setup was. I still have this bookmark of an open design I found:

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

Past that, I don't know any more since I just had basic training on it as I said.


Whoa, RONJA - that's a blast from the past!


I worked on this recently, free space optical system... http://www.doncio.navy.mil/chips/ArticleDetails.aspx?ID=5550

The parts are extremely expensive if you want a high data rate.

The acquisition logic for creating a link is very difficult as one has to aim their beam just perfectly.

I'd say it's not ready for prime time.


Your username is awesome.


This is perfect. I started the ball rolling on my own ISP last month and have gathered advice from another local ISP and online sources. So far I've gotten one quote of $950/month for resellable 100/100mbps fiber, I'm about to start drumming up local support, and I have some various ideas about how to connect everything together. This will certainly help it along.


What has been your biggest hang up so far? Have you worked out a viable business plan?


It takes weeks to actually get the fiber quotes. I only got that one quote last week after a month and still trying to get others. Now I need to spread the word more and gauge how much interest there is before I can really commit to it. So far, it seems promising.

What finally got me started up on it was seeing how fast and cheap some of the wireless equipment had gotten, specifically Ubiquiti's wireless mesh equipment. Still need a lot of research on how to engineer a solution to my situation.


Brings back memories. 15 or so years ago in rural Sweden, me and some friends were frustrated about only having access to 56 k. There was this local networking guy who set up the networks at local LAN parties that we asked for help. It ended up with the brave one of us climbing a local mast to see how many roofs we could see. Then we called the mast/tower owner to ask what it would cost to put some equipment there. We could see around 20 roofs and it would cost ~2k USD/mo. On top of that we'd have to pay for other equipment of course. We figured it wouldn't be worth it really.

Years later we got ADSL but last year they cut the copper wires and now wireless (up to 4G) is the only option, and it works so so.

There's kind of a battle going on between proper fiber (realistic because of subsidies/EU grants) and WISP proponents currently. Marketers of the latter like to call it "air fiber" but that's not really fair IMHO.


Anyone created shared access for their condo building? Our building is wired for xfinity cable and Fios gig Fiber, but I was thinking of having a building provided internet for a low price. I'm not sure if Verizon will give us a wholesale connection when they'd prefer everyone pay separately.


(author here) I'm interested in talking to you more directly about this. Contact info is in the about me section on this site, shoot me an email if you get a chance.


I notice you're trying to answer a lot of people's questions in private. That's really kind of you. I am concerned that there's probably a lot more people out there with similar questions that would take a lot of time to help. Like in my other comment, I suggest making notes during all of those exchanges to see if you have any general tips you could share. You don't even have to do full write-ups on them: just a FAQ page for this thread or something that warns on top you are dropping it somewhat unfiltered due to being low on time. It can say email you for any follow-up questions which you might just put back in those parts of the FAQ. Then, people can just share the link, discuss what was said on other forums, generate more info, and so on.


I'd love to do something like this, but I'm too afraid of dealing with the police if someone uses my service to do anything illegal. If it's very small (e.g. a neighborhood), might they just accuse the operator (me) and I'd have to prove my innocence?


(author here) My experience has been that if you're up front with the police about what you're doing they won't beat your door down and haul you away. What usually happens is that the police look up the IP address they've identified as a problem and then check the ARIN database to see who owns it. ARIN is going to give them the name of the ISP not of the subscriber, so they're accustomed to then calling the ISP to subpoena the name of the customer. If you purchase service from a fiber provider then the name in ARIN's database will either be your provider or (if they SWIP the IPs to you) the name you give your ISP.

In the past what I've seen is that the police will ask you to identify who was using an IP and also to help them catch the person in the act if they do the thing again. So far I haven't seen them get too pushy if you can't do the first thing as long as you're willing to do the second.


Thanks for your great work!

> In the past what I've seen is that the police will ask you to identify who was using an IP and also to help them catch the person in the act if they do the thing again

What's the method to catch the person in the act? Is it something like creating a rule: "if [this website] was visited between [foo] and [bar] notify me" at the routing level?


(author here) When I've been involved in this it's been using a traffic sniffer (tcpdump or iptraf or wireshark) to watch the customer's traffic and see what they connect to.


As a ISP, you don't want to do this. You're not responsible to what goes inside your pipes.

Let the majors/govs do the work of spying and detecting piracy / illegal websites, and just answer to subpoenas, that will be enough.


Shameless plug: if you're using Mikrtotik give http://zima.cloud a go, it saves you the hassle of owning a radius server, among other nice features


I'd love to see a "Getting your community/municipality to install fiber" version of this.


That's some good info and knowledge shared there, thanks for this! I have a question as I just started reading it on mobile (skimming it): does the cost apply mostly to US or that could be extrapolated to other places? Is the total conservative or what? I mean, I had to idea how expensive it is to set up a small ISP, at least considering my local currency and the fact that there were people actually doing this in the past here. Apparently it costs the same as 1/3 of a house in Brazil (nothing fancy, but decent in an average city). In fact I would expect the costs to be a bit higher than stated, right? Again, thanks for sharing all that!


re: https://startyourownisp.com/posts/introduction/ I think you mean "Customer-premises equipment" https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Customer-premises_equipment rather than Customer Premise Equipment.


Hate to be the grumpy uncle at the party, but seriously, you don't want to build a business on microwave radiation based wireless. Why? Its a potent biological toxin and the wireless industry is just walking dead until Governments are forced to shut them down to prevent getting bankrupted through cost to the health-care system. The scientific evidence is abundant and its strong. Countries are already passing laws to reduce exposure. Ignore at your peril.


>a potent biological toxin

A toxin is a poisonous substance produced within living cells or organisms [...]

Toxins can be small molecules, peptides, or proteins that are capable of causing disease on contact with or absorption by body tissues interacting with biological macromolecules such as enzymes or cellular receptors.

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


Quote from my #1 ref. below: "Analysis of the currently available peer-reviewed scientific literature reveals molecular effects induced by low-intensity RFR in living cells; this includes significant activation of key pathways generating reactive oxygen species (ROS), activation of peroxidation, oxidative damage of DNA and changes in the activity of antioxidant enzymes."


Microwave radiation is not itself a toxin though. It may or may not create toxins, but EM radiation is not a molecule, peptide, or protein.


Do you have a link to the scientific evidence?

I've never heard this before. Don't want to dismiss it as tin-foil paranoia without reading the data!



If you have fiber to your home from a local ISP, can you convert it to a business account for using it for a WISP? (Comcast offers fiber/2000 Mbps in my area)


Tack a 0 or two onto the monthly cost, and possibly. Comcast (and most other large ISPs) contractually prohibits you from reselling either residential or business connections, so you'd have to negotiate something else.


Fiber cables are cheaper, and has much more capacity. The problem is getting them cables in the ground. If you can solve that, there's your unicorn startup.


I think this is more common in rural area where it's not economically feasible to run fiber to everyone.


I have a solution. I call it.. a trencher.


In practice, is this profitable?


(author here) I personally know probably a dozen or so people who have built a network like this, got enough customers to live comfortably for a while, and are either still doing that or eventually sold to a larger company and moved on to other things. So yes it can be profitable on a small scale.


Thanks for putting this together and sharing it. Really interesting read.

I know it's a bit personal, but would you mind attaching numbers to the notion of small scale profitability?


It varies pretty dramatically depending on how much you have to pay for fiber, how many customers you're able to get per tower, what you're able to charge (competition) and what type of customers you get (business / residential / mdu).

My back of the napkin calculations usually show that to give one person a health salary ($80-120k) and pay a few contractors or lower wage workers to do some of the grunt work you would need 300-500 residential customers.


And how long should you expect it to take to reach 300-500 customers with average effort? The operation wouldn’t be profitable from day one so you’d need to have some runway.


It can be. Often just barely so, especially if you are able to a bunch of the work on your own.


Not with net neutrality :)


I'm trying to translate this into Australian. Is there anyone here who's run/worked an ISP or WISP in Australia that can weigh in on how applicable this is to our situation? Confidence in our telcos is at an all time low, and seeing smaller WISPs crop up to put the transnationals back on track would be fantastic.


It's quite applicable.

There are already plenty in Aus: Clear Networks (VIC - Melbourne & many regional) BigAir (NSW) Uniti (VIC - Melbourne, SA - Adelaide) The Signal co (ACT - Canberra) Netspeed (ACT - Canberra) nuSkope (SA - Adelaide, QLD - Brisbane) Red Broadband (WA - Perth) Node 1 (WA - Perth & Geraldton) AirFiber (NSW - West Sydney)

And others.

Good discussions on http://forums.whirlpool.net.au/forum/18

Your biggest challenge is likely to be access to dark fibre or leased-lines at acceptable prices that allow you to make money. Licensed wireless backhaul is often the way to go, but that gets expensive quickly and also some existing spectrum there is likely to get re-allocated to 5G.


Oh hey, we have a slack channel for this. Email staff@tsi.io, we'll combine what we have with what you have.


Direct link to the author's price breakdown: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1jjUYOQMuZ4cRyTv1M5X8...


What have you found works well for weather proofing? What is the weather like in your service area? Any good stories or discoveries?

I seem to remember a funny video on YouTube where a tech opened a radome and a metric ton of acorns fell out. I'd pull it up, but I'm on mobile.


Oh wow lots of things yes! I think my scariest infrastructure-meets-nature moment was looking down as I took the last step off a tower and seeing I was about to step on a rattle snake.

At my current company we're in a lovely area (Bay area, no wonder everyone wants to live here!) Without too much weather to deal with.

In the past I've built networks in the Rocky Mountains (Utah, Idaho) and desert areas (Texas, Nevada, New Mexico) and Louisiana. So dealing with snow, ice, rain and lightning are the biggest issues I've seen. I'm planning a whole section dedicated to these things - sign up for updates on the site so you don't miss it :)


Is anyone starting anything here in the bay area Eastbay? say around the tri-valley area?

Judging by how extensive the guide is, I guess there's a lot of room to make things easier? perhaps someone can build a suite of tools to assist in this process, perhaps automate things?


This is amazing I have tried even today to research starting an ISP it is still such a hard thing to learn about. Not sure if that's just because the isp hides it or what haha thanks so much for your share more info would be awesome


I have tried even now to learn this stuff it's as if it's being censorsed haha its still hard but I can't even imagine back then. I would love to learn all you know on this subject



Great initiative! I would like to know what you think of Artemis Network's stuff? Is it legit?


I can say one thing... after having learned most of what the article outlines the hard way, I'm still waiting for hardware to trial.

Meanwhile, MIMO capabilities are improving steadily; not quite the same approach but functional and proven for use today. Never plan a business model on another company's promises.

Another piece of delayed hardware was Mimosa's window CPE that never made it to full production due to underperforming results.


Has anyone done this who would share their experience? Thanks!


That's literally what this post is. Someone who has done this and is sharing their experience.


The website is completely free and was Created by a guy who is doing it all right now – his ISP already works great


I just moved to a new town and was thinking it would be great to do something like this. I was inspired by the guys I posted in the earlier article.

Curious about startup costs/financing.


$12-36K for 12 months fiber. ~$36k in software/equipment costs is probably a safe floor. Lease is toooooooo variable to ballpark.

I wouldn't do it with less than $100k on the assumption you are burning money for the first year and any income is reinvested into marketing.

You probably need a minimum of 500 people for this to be viable.


(author here) this sounds about right to me. I definitely know people who have gotten started for less (a friend recently just sold a car for $10k and went for it - making enough now to support his family) but obviously safer to have some cushion.

I usually guess 300-500 customers to be able to pay yourself a reasonable salary and maintain the business, depending on how much you hire vs do yourself.


This is really good to hear, as it seems like a very viable business in a small town like the one I have moved to.

We have a high population density in the downtown area and folks favor local over corporate offerings around here.

Keep up the good work on documentation - it was very interesting to read yesterday.

One aside, what do you consider an appropriate salary to pay yourself when you reach that 300-500 user mark.

I currently run a business and it's been a situation where at times I'll trim my salary back, and make my money on the backend when I am profitable. I'd presume much of the same approach would work here, just curious.

Also seems 100MB rates down and 5mb up in my neighborhood costs around $40/month - do you try to compete heavily on rates?


Hi Neo!

> what do you consider an appropriate salary to pay yourself when you reach that 300-500 user mark.

Depends on your situation obviously but something like 80-120k.

> Also seems 100MB rates down and 5mb up in my neighborhood costs around $40/month - do you try to compete heavily on rates?

That's not too bad! If people are satisfied with that then it might be tough to get customers. It could be that those are advertised speeds but people aren't actually seeing those speeds, esp at night when they try to watch netflix, so that could be a selling point - even a lower but more consistent speed package can sometimes win over a flashy marketed package that doesn't deliver. Also if people really hate the cable company enough (many do!) then they'll switch even for the same price. Doesn't have to be the lowest cost option (but it definitely helps!)


Thanks for sharing your experience!




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