Starting an ISP


Stranger Than Fiction
Political User
This is pure wishful thinking on my part. For one I haven't the money to pull this off and for two I have no idea where to begin. I'll concentrate on two...

Say you're like me. You live in a small town, the phone company also owns the cable company and has a monopoly on internet access. You pay $70 a month for their "premium" package and get a whopping 768k/sec. You want a change. If you had the cash how would you go about setting it up? I mean how do you even get on the internet? There has to be a main hub to get access to right? Then what? My new service couldn't exceed the connection to this big hub thing. That and I wouldn't be able to under cut the phone company cause I'm probably spending a lot on my connection and I'd probably have to buy the phone companies exisiting lines or even run my own right?

Any ideas?


Carbon based lifeform
Political User
This could possibly be pretty expensive. are you thinking of a dedicated line? like a T-1? or a Fios like line from the hub?

Ermm ...technically you could look for a corporate lease building, that is already connected then just get your equipment and sell from there. If the building is connected than adding bandwidth shouldn't be a problem, if it is not connected than you would have put out the initial investment for a trunk in. (Siemens, anyone?) This would probably be the cheapest way to go if you can find the right property.

The expensive way would be to lease a building and than have them lay a trunk to you.


Stranger Than Fiction
Political User
I didn't think it would be cheap. I also didn't think I would ever end up doing it! Just curious I guess. There is one building in town that sits empty right now. I know that it had at least one T1, I don't know where they got it or how much that stuff even costs though.


OSNN Veteran Addict
1) You have to apply for and GET a governemnt liscence to provide data services. This may not be possible if the local government has granted existing providers monopolistic rights.

2) Incoming trunk service line has to be available or bought. That could mean millions especially in a small town.

3) If you can get a liscence the existing providers may be forced to resell their bandwidth to you by recent federal laws so that is good, but puts you in a weeker financial position to undercut them.

4) You have to provide "last mile" interconnect. That means leasing bandwidth from the existing cable or telephone provider, again a loosing proposition. OR go wifi.

5) WIFI requires a whole new set of federal liscences, plus finding and leasing locations to install antennas. The environmentalist will probably crawl out of the e-walls to harass and impede you.The good news is if you can do this your last mile cost is 1/10 of that for cable of telephone providers.

6) You have to get customers to switch. This can get expensive. Equipment costs, instalation fees, advertising. Also if customers are on 1 year plans uptake will be excrucitaingly slow.

7) Your service and maintenance will be a nightmare. Idiot calls will flood you. Equipment theft and vandalism will be an issue.

I'd say 20 million in venture capital to start a small coverage area and then expand the cells as customer base expands.

Make your local government pay for it. Research everything you can on municiple wireless being adopted. Sell the interconnect the poor story. Go to city council and around city council to get an item on the november ballot to install a municiple wireless. Prove costs are outrageous. Imply city council is on the take. Blame monopolyies on poor service and high prices. Push this until local telecoms roll over and improve service or city rolls over and opens up an affordable internet service initiative. This will work!
Cost to you <$20K not counting your time. Get ohers to volunteer. Especially try and get a member of city council to champion it. Next year is an ELECTION YEAR!


Stranger Than Fiction
Political User
I had no idea there was the many licenses and what not to get. Sounds like a major pain. The best plan might be to THREATEN to do all of this and hopefully the cable company ups their service. I know they put in new fiber lines a few years back so it should be possible. Thanks for the tips, REP!


Woah.. I'm still here?
Staff member
Political User
there are towns (mostly in Colorado for some reason) that have banded together to form Co-Ops (the most well known of which is the Ruby Ranch Co-Op) to provide internet access for the whole neighborhood. Generally this is in areas that do not have any internet provider.. since you already have one (although an unreasonable priced one), it may be a little different legalities involved.

But you may want to look to their example (or even contact them) to get more specifics on how they set it all up. Their Faq has some pretty good info on it though.

Depending on your needs and locations, you could also start reselling your service (assuming your existing ISP will allow it). Some ISP's and/or satellite ISP's will allow their business accounts to resell bandwidth.. so you end up setting up a higher prices business account internet service, getting a wireless router (or trenching your own cable), setting up local neighbors with wireless repeaters/receivers/switches/etc, and charging them a cheaper rate to use your bandwidth.
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OSNN Veteran Addict
A friend of mine and myself while at Uni resold wireless (and wired) broadband to students in our local area. We did this for our last two years of uni.

Firstly we had to advertise. We put up banners around uni and got about 3 student houses. We charged over what we were paying for the broadband from the reseller but we provided in-home installation, hardware and support. In all the first year we made about £100 profit. This was mainly due to issues with hardware. I shall never buy DLink wireless hardware again. We used DLink in two of the houses and NetGear in one of them. The netgear resulted in less call outs. The DLinks had to be replaced twice. This hit our profits a bit as we were only able to RMA the DLinks and replacing them with Netgears wasnt cheap.

The second year we had some further uptake about 6 houses this time. Just about all of them were on the fastest package which provided the best profit margin for us :D

Again we tried the DLinks in one house as it had 48 people in it and you can only repeat wireless signal with homogeneous hardware. ie DLink <-> DLink and not DLink <-> NetGear. Again this was the one with the most call outs but the NetGears performed well.

We used the previous years profits to get better hardware. This was probably one of the best things we could have done. By feeding in the profit from the first year we were able to greatly improve our business.

With only a few more houses and some better hardware we were able to turn a much more respectable profit with less of our own time dedicated to fixing problems.

Its a little story but I hope it does help you with some of your plans. I would say don't expect to make much of a profit in the first year, we had some help in that the Student Accommodation department recommended us to the students. After the first year we were also asked to provide a quote for providing broadband service to all the Student Accommodation managed houses which would have been incredible, but we were beaten out by a bigger company. Fortunately for us the bigger company ended up dragging its feet and not doing anything for our second year of business.


OSNN Veteran Addict

Did you liscence your ISP to allow you to resell or was this an illegal operation?

Was a very small physical area allowing use of home equipment which doesn't require Governent liscencing?


Take some time, maybe put up a post or poll here for what price/speed/city people have available. Put the info together in a couple of presentation charts and sign up for the next town meeting agenda. I'll get ya started:

Fort Worth Tx
ATT (aka swbell) ADSL
1.5mb/384kb $19.95/month
3.0mb/512kb $24.95/month
Don't know price on the fast streaming TV option.
These prices are when bundled with phone service.

Charter Cable
3.0mb $54/month
5.0mb $62/month
10.0mb $79/month
These prices can be reduced ~$20/month when bundling digital cable with the Internet Service.
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