145 comments

Internet Sharing – How to Get Revenge on the Cable Company

Earlier this spring, reports started coming in from some nearby friends that their internet access prices had been jacked way up. It seems that the local internet near-monopoly (Comcast) had just arbitrarily decided to increase their prices by $10 per month. Offended by this attack on their frugality, these friends naturally turned to Mr. Money Mustache for advice.

Normally, I’d just advise them to use the magic of the free market and vote with their feet. Call Comcast, cancel the internet service while explaining it is because of the price increase, and select one of several other options we have here in my town (including a city-wide wi-fi network).

But in this case, hearing of this the 20% price increase pushed me over the edge. You see, I’ve had a bone to pick with Comcast ever since 2009, when they secretly funded a voter disinformation program called “No Blank Check Longmont”. It was designed to get the citizens of this city to vote against allowing our town council to use the fiber-optic network that the people paid for and own, to offer services for the benefit of the people.

The cable company was afraid of having to compete with a potentially low-cost internet access program from the city, but since that wouldn’t make a very good sales pitch, they did it by lying instead: saying that the city would be spending taxpayer money on the project. It was completely false, and the town council tried their best to fight the lies with editorials in the town newspaper. But in the end, Comcast just out-spent the council by a huge margin and stupidity won the day. In 2011, the fiber optic vote came back on the ballot, and Comcast funded yet another disinformation campaign with the catchy name “Look before we Leap“. Again, they pretended to be “a group of concerned citizens” despite the fact that their entire $300,000 budget came from the cable companies. Luckily, there were enough informed voters the second time around to kick its ass. The citizens got their fiber optic network back, and Comcast gained a few new lifetime enemies, including me.

So with that in mind, today’s article details a fun science project that is purely for informational purposes. If this article becomes popular someday in the future, it may help tilt the balance of power (and the flow of monthly fees) away from the big cable companies and back into the hands of computer-savvy people like you and me.

My friends and I wondered, “If several people all live close together, is it theoretically possible to share a single internet connection, linking multiple homes with long-range wi-fi antennas?”

We all know about wi-fi technology. I’ve been a big fan since it first popped up at the turn of this century, and suddenly laptop computers truly became useful since you could work in a cozy chair without the need to string a network cable across your house. Since then, we’ve gone from 802.11b all the way up to 802.11n, and its speed has gotten about 30 times faster as the price has dropped like a stone. But even now, these technologies are designed with limited range. They can nicely blanket a coffee shop, your house, and even your yard with internet access. But if you walk down the street, you’ll see the signal strength drop off rapidly and you’ll be disconnected within a minute’s walk.

But for this article, we decided to see how far the envelope could be pushed. In my neighborhood, there are quite a few friends within a three minute walk, which works out to about a 900 foot radius when plotted on a map. Specifically, there’s a cluster of nice people directly to the Southwest of me, so we decided to see if we could bring up a reliable high-speed wi-fi connection between my house and theirs. It was a struggle, but feeling the eyes of the Mustachians on me, I could not give up. In the end, we prevailed, and learned a lot in the process. Here’s how I did it:

Step 1: I measured the “as the crow flies” distance between the two houses. I used this handy google maps distance calculator for that step. If your line of sight between houses is obscured by trees, the limit is 1000 feet (about 16 houses worth in a medium-density housing development) . If not, you can shoot for 2000 feet or more.

Step 2: I ordered two long-range wi-fi outdoor access points from amazon. These have a relatively strong 12dbi internal antenna and a power output of 600 milliwatts – apparently the highest legal power output in most countries including the US.

Step 3: Each homeowner found a way to string an Ethernet cable from his roof, through the attic and nicely into his office to be plugged into the existing wi-fi router on each side.

Step 4: The access points arrived and were installed upon the rooftops, pointing exactly at each other through the 900 feet of clear air with occasional tree canopies.

Step 5: Extensive fussing around with network settings on both sides ensued, due to the clunky user interfaces and loosely-translated-from-Chinese instruction manuals. In the end, we succeeded in getting both houses to share the single internet connection.

But the result was not satisfactory. My house has a very fast internet connection (over 10 megabits/sec download speed), yet my friend was unable to get downloads faster than about 1.0 Mbit/sec, and frequently dropped below half of that. This is too slow to watch Netflix movies or even YouTube, so we were disappointed.

I fiddled some more. We tried returning one of the access points to Amazon, thinking it was defective, but the replacement was exactly the same. I brought them both to my house and did some close-range testing and found that the throughput was much faster at close range. That meant that the distance, and especially the trees, were weakening the signal.

We could give up, or we could double down. Since this was an official Money Mustache Laboratories experiment, and since this blog is now making some dough to fund itself (via the credit cards page of all places!), I decided to Double Down.

So the Laboratory purchased an upgraded antenna for one end of the connection, to really beam that signal with maximum intensity. I found an external “24 dbi” antenna and a connector cable, both from the same TP-link company, and placed the order. Based on the picture and the price, I was expecting a cute little flimsy metal thing about the size of a small toaster oven.  But when the big flat box came to my house, I was shocked at the size.

I opened the box, and saw a beefy metal grid that looked like a BBQ grilling surface. It was huge! But there appeared to be TWO of them in the box.
“Did they accidentally send me two antennas?”, I asked.
“Uhh.. I think you’re supposed to bolt both of those pieces together”, came Mrs. Money Mustache’s voice from over my shoulder.
She was right. I assembled the 24dbi monstrosity, and this is how big it ended up:

RF engineers will note right away that in this picture, I had the shiny receiver part in the center mounted sideways – it needs to be rotated 90 degrees. But I didn’t realize that until several hours later. After climbing back onto my roof, connecting the external antenna, and fiddling yet again with angles and orientations, I couldn’t even get a signal as strong as the smaller internal antenna had been delivering (for reference, I found you need at least 36 db signal strength to get a fast connection – the internal antennas averaged 28 db).

So I gave up and sulked down my ladder, thinking that the experiment had been a failure. I’d have to return all this stuff and probably wouldn’t even bother writing this article. But as I opened the box to get it ready for re-packing, a figure in the instruction manual caught my eye. I realized I had installed the receiver wrong! There was still hope!

To make the rest of this long story short, I reassembled everything, put it back on the roof, and BLAM! The internet connection between the two houses was suddenly blazingly fast! My friend was able to get 10-megabit speeds through his test setup, and the connection was finally rock-solid – good enough to stream movies and music without stuttering.

The final solution. It’s huge, but it is tucked away on a back corner of the Mustache residence, so the overall effect is no worse than a TV antenna.

It was a lot of work. Even after learning from my mistakes, I would not recommend this project for someone who doesn’t know how to, for example, manually set the IP address of a computer, or how to change their wi-fi router so it assigns DHCP LAN addresses on the 192.168.2.x subnet. All of these details could easily be hidden from the user with the right technology, but it doesn’t exist today – so this is not for technophobes.

But if that doesn’t scare you off, here are the benefits:

  • Sharing an internet connection with a friend can save each person $300 per year or more.
  • Extending your home wi-fi network to include a big swath of your neighborhood allows you to make voice-over-internet phone calls even when not at home. This may allow you to use a lower-level mobile voice plan, data plan, or both.
  • It allows you to share files, folders, and even printers between friends as if they were in the same house.
  • My phone now connects to my home wi-fi network even when visiting neighbors many houses away. So I can stream my favorite Pandora Internet Radio through the phone, which is fun for parties and also for outdoor construction work, which I do mainly close to home.
  • I got in touch with Republic Wireless and am now on their short list to become one of the testers. This is a new $20-per-month unlimited cell phone plan that works best if you’re in wi-fi range a lot of the time. With this new rooftop antenna system, this is definitely the case.
  • This antenna/access point combination can also be used to tune into any nearby wi-fi network. There may be public wi-fi available at a library, school, or other facility (even several blocks away) that you can use from home, for free. For light users, this may allow foregoing a paid internet connection entirely. In my city, an outdoor access point is often required to connect to the city’s pay-for-use wifi network. But once you have it set up, you benefit from great-quality internet access at a price much lower than what the bad guys are charging.

Disclaimer: if you plan to do this, check your own internet service rules to make sure it’s allowed. Comcast, for example, tells you in the user agreement that sharing is not allowed (even though this is a silly rule: they already have a montly data limit, so who are they to say how you use the data YOU are paying for??).  I’m not a Comcast customer (I switched to another service after the aforementioned hijacking of our town’s elections). I don’t encourage breaking any laws. I just encourage having fun. This post for is for educational purposes only :-)

Happy Hacking!

Update, 18 months later: Voters have scored another body blow on the cable industry, approving a fiber optic connection to every interested home in the city, which will bring us 1,000 megabit/second internet for $49 per month: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-switch/wp/2013/11/06/big-cable-helped-defeat-seattles-mayor-mcginn-but-they-couldnt-stop-this-colorado-project/

Further notes on Comcast: After reading many of the comments below, I realize just how widespread the dislike for this company is. It’s quite amazing, and a bit reassuring, to see that running a company in an unethical way really does get you in trouble with your customers. Eventually, it will surely force the company to drastically improve, or be destroyed.

The funny part is, I remember reading an interview in a big business magazine with the Comcast CEO a few years ago. He sounded all earnest, like he really knew about their bad reputation, and he wanted to improve it.

Well, here’s a tip, besides the obvious of  “don’t try to hijack local elections”. How about TELLING PEOPLE THE ACTUAL PRICES OF YOUR GODDAMNED SEVICE PLANS!?!? If you go to comcast.com and look up pricing plans, you get thrown into an awful and tricky maze. First of all, everything is all jumbled up, with talk of archaic services like “TV” and “Voice” even after you click the “Internet” tab.

Secondly, we do NOT give a shit what the fake price is “for the first six months”. Tell us the actual goddamned price! Put the long-term monthly price of all the services on the FRONT PAGE of the website. In huge numbers. If you like, put a tiny footnote about any introductory pricing, which is almost irrelevant to our long-term costs. Better yet, skip the stupid gimmicks and roll the promotion into the overall price, lowering it slightly. Then raise this price about 2% per year at the most, to keep up with inflation. Or better yet, lower it, since communications and tech prices are always dropping. Be honest, and stop trying to fool people into buying more shit than they need.

These are my tips to Comcast as a starter for how to make your customers hate you less.

 

  • Stavros May 16, 2012, 6:50 am

    This is great, and I have a tight relationship with 4 families within 6 houses of mine that would likely be up for this. Our challenge though, is that our HOA would likely not be to happy with this size of an antenna. We have a fairly cool HOA, but this may be pushing it. Definitely need to check this out and see if it’d fit in with the regs, I would love to split my $60/mo bill 2-4 ways!

    Reply
    • Llama May 17, 2012, 12:04 pm

      The picture of the mega-antenna made me laugh. I already have one of those monstrosities on the roof left over from past owners! I assumed it was from the 70s for TV, but maybe not?

      Anyhow, we’re in a small HOA as well. I wonder if we could possibly get around the “No Sharing!” rule if the HOA were to be the “customer” in this scenario? Each owner owns an equal 1/42 share of the association.

      Thoughts?

      Reply
      • GregK May 18, 2012, 9:39 am

        You would need some serious bandwidth to cover 42 households… The standard $50/month plan probably wouldn’t cut it. See what kind of plans your local ISP has, maybe for business customers. It’s more than likely you can all save some money in aggregate, having the price of internet rolled into slightly higher HOA fees.

        Reply
      • Mark February 9, 2013, 5:06 pm

        If the HOA is the owner of the account, the HOA can then legally share out the Internet access to its HO Members. Using the DMCA Safe Harbor Provision, the HOA is then exempt from prosecution due to a users use of the service.

        Starting to work on this very thing for my small HOA. 350 homes, .5mile radius. As for bandwidth, one comment was that you would need a lot of bandwidth, however, you really don’t and it’s cheap nowadays anyway. I have 150Mb download for 500 users at work…the connection is never slow. Having the same 150Mb line or 350 homes would see peak traffic in the evenings, however, not everyone is online at the same time, and even when there are a lot of users online, not everyone is streaming 1080p video. It’s also very simple to setup a bandwidth throttle if needed, so that no single user is using too much.

        http://uptownonthehill.com/index.php/2011/03/hoa-corner-association-provided-wifi-and-dmca/

        Reply
    • CSTEVEO80 November 4, 2013, 1:08 pm

      With the use of ubiquiti products you can get rid of the HUGE antennas and they are way more manageable using a mesh network repeaters with their 802.11 line that are ridiculously cheap. its cost effective equipment that WISP (Wireless Internet Service Providers) Are currently using to provide broadband speeds to cities. So in effect you could get a whole group of people in an area lets say 10… buy the fastest Comcast line of 150MBps and then share it in a mesh network across 10 people and split the cost into a paypal account tie paying the bill out of the card from that account and viola. Cost effective high speed internet.

      Reply
  • Mr. Money Mustache May 16, 2012, 6:56 am

    You’re in luck- you only need the small access point (the unit pictured at the beginning of the article, about 6″x12″) if you are that close together. The huge antenna is only needed when you get further – like over 10 houses apart.

    Reply
    • Stavros May 16, 2012, 7:53 am

      Great news! I need to do some testing and research, but the omnidirectional antennas are interesting to me also. That way I can hit the 2-4 (maybe a few on the other side also!) neighbors without more antennae.

      Reply
      • MattAdams May 16, 2012, 12:49 pm

        Also keep in mind that you could set up a group of wi-fi repeaters at each house that bounces and amplifies the signal to each of the other houses, so you have a smaller send out signal but you boost it along the way

        Reply
        • Screamsalvation June 16, 2012, 5:16 pm

          The only problem I have seen with repeaters is that each repeater will cut down on your throughput speed. I had to take over a network one time that they bounced the signal off 4 repeaters to get it to an office away from the main location. By the time the signal got to the last repeater it was slower than dial up.

          Reply
    • Entity325 May 16, 2012, 5:45 pm

      FYI, over here in the Springs, my family has Century Link. We recently upgraded to 20Mbit/sec(from 7), and the subscription fee apparently dropped by $10 a month when we did it.

      Of course, our Wi-Fi connection only extends a couple of houses away.

      Chew on THAT, Comcast.

      Reply
  • Dave May 16, 2012, 7:09 am

    Want to really mess with them? Give up cable TV entirely. Over the air broadcasts are the highest quality available. Netflix and Hulu are relatively inexpensive. I’m paying $50 a month for the net, no fees or tax in NJ, and $17 a month for the streaming sites on PS3. Also running a NORMAL phone on Skype for $3 a month, unlimited calling out in Canada and US.

    Want more info hit me on Twitter @DSchmetterer

    Reply
    • Praxis May 16, 2012, 11:14 am

      This isn’t about cable TV, it’s about internet. I think MMM would demand anyone who pays for cable TV to fork over their Mustachian badge.

      Reply
  • Joe @ Retire By 40 May 16, 2012, 7:11 am

    We live in a big building so sharing would be perfect for us. :) I don’t want to break any rules, but if they keep jacking up the price, we’ll need to have a friendly neighbors get together.

    Reply
    • GregK May 16, 2012, 9:35 am

      For the record, within a building, you’ll want a powerful OMNI-directional device, not the UNIdirectional device MMM ended up using. And make sure you’re following Yuriy’s words of caution (below) about security.

      Reply
  • Baughman May 16, 2012, 7:19 am

    Alternatively, if you are “retired” and have low earned income, and you have a kid eligible for a free lunch program, you can stick it to your internet provider and ask for $10/month internet: http://www.mymoneyblog.com/comcast-internet-essentials-low-cost-broadband-internet-for-lower-income-families.html. Coming live later this summer.

    Reply
    • Emmers May 16, 2012, 8:02 am

      Huh, I’m surprised the free lunch program is based only on earned income. That seems like a pretty big loophole to have.

      Reply
    • GregK May 16, 2012, 9:33 am

      I certainly hope MMM and his well-off readers aren’t taking advantage of free lunch programs via this loophole. Exacting revenge on blood-sucking cable companies is one thing… taking free lunch money from kids who actually need it is quite another.

      Reply
      • Baughman May 16, 2012, 9:59 am

        How do you define well off? Knowing how to live well on less than you make? If that’s the case, you have people pulling in $1M/year and spending $1.05M/year as poor off. Alternatively, you have people like me pulling in 24k/year and spending 17k/year living well (for a family of 5).

        You are perpetuating the myth that poverty in the United States is income (or strictly expenditure) based. It is not. I am proof that poverty is not income or expenditure based. MMM is proof that the expenditure based definition is also erroneous.

        Do you also find it offensive that I legally receive 24k/year in government transfers because I qualify, without technically “needing” anything?

        Since you are so altruistic, I trust that you willingly turn down deductions on your tax filings, such as the standard deduction or the mortgage income credit (if you itemize). Thus, you pay more in taxes than your legal obligation, helping to reduce the tax burden of your fellow citizens and that of unborn generations.

        In reality, the most altruistic thing that any of us can do is to vote for government officials and policies that will preserve individual incentives (eliminating silly transfers which I currently benefit from by reducing welfare and progressive taxes), and thus minimize deadweight losses. The world works best when individual selfishness creates positive externalities on society, like Adam Smith’s invisible hand. Do you think that Steve Jobs and Bill Gates worked countless hours and sacrificed so much for the sake of altrusim? No. They wanted to be filthy rich. In order to restore incentives to their proper form, we need to eliminate entitlements and let people reap the efforts of their own hard work, or the consequences of their lack of hard work. It is no accident that entitlements are bankrupting this country. Who can blame people for wanting/demanding something for nothing?

        @ Emmers, upon further inspection, I oversimplified. It’s based off of total income, either earned or unearned. Of course, this can be manipulated, right? The act of deferring a capital gain to a future date (or simply holding assets in tax sheltered accounts) means that you are building wealth without realizing unearned income. The IRS couldn’t care less about accumulation of unrealized capital gains; it’s only when you realize them that they come after your purse.

        Reply
        • Emmers May 16, 2012, 10:55 am

          Your point about the equivalence of the mortgage interest tax deduction and welfare is an interesting one, which I will ponder further!

          (IIRC, I receive about $3000 annually in mortgage welfare. I haven’t bothered to add up how much I receive annually in gasoline-subsidy welfare or ag-subsidy welfare, though, because that would get pretty complicated!)

          And as long as they’re looking at both earned and unearned income, I think I’m okay with that. I think anything we can do to encourage everyone (rich and poor alike) to fund their 401(k)’s and Roths is a good thing.

          (Do retirement accounts count as “assets” for the FAFSA? It’s been such a long time that I forget…)

          ETA: Also, I don’t consider “my stock increased in value” to be “income” in any remotely meaningful way. (MMM had an entire post about this the other day!) OTOH, dividends definitely *are* income.

          Reply
        • GregK May 16, 2012, 2:55 pm

          Given your response to my outrageous statement that those who don’t need it probably shouldn’t direct their children to use government vouchers instead of cash to buy lunch, I probably shouldn’t antagonize you further — but I will say a couple of things.

          It’s pretty rare to see Adam Smith and externalities in the same sentence. The two are pretty close to mutually exclusive — do some googling. Your first clue will be that the word does not appear in the Wikipedia article on the Invisible Hand until you get to the “criticisms” section. Adam Smith and the Invisible Hand ignore externalities; that’s the major problem with the theory. Externalities are the benefits or costs that appear for people not involved in a certain market, which is the primary cause of failures in free market systems. For example, people who come into contact with those who have been vaccinated are beneficiaries of positive externalities since they will not be infected even if they didn’t get the shot; children with asthma are often victims of negative externalities from industry (Adam Smith has no answer for pollution, save, perhaps, for cap & trade, from which free-market champions like yourself tend to recoil violently, for reasons I don’t quite understand).

          Also (from the same sentence) I find that people who say things like “the world works best when xyz…” tend to be those who know little about the world beyond their own country/culture/etc. They have typically never lived in countries where the economic system is notably different from their own, and so they tend to believe the best of all possible worlds is simply an optimized version of the system in place where they live. For the US, that is an unregulated free-market system (though others may see it differently). We’ll all have different views of what works and what doesn’t, what’s good and what isn’t, but don’t pretend that your viewpoint is the One True Way. It simply ignores reality; things are much more subtle than that.

          If you think your four children should have lunch provided to them by the government, go for it. If you don’t think they should, but do it anyway because it’s offered, I suppose that’s your right. To me, it would leave a bad taste in my mouth. If you can’t see the difference between a program designed to promote home ownership and a program designed to put food in the mouths of children whose parents cannot or will not provide it for them, I cannot make you understand.

          Reply
          • GregK May 16, 2012, 3:12 pm

            Oh, and here’s a great example of how the Invisible Hand bitch-slapped Treece, Kansas:

            http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/20/magazine/last-ones-left-in-treece-kan-a-toxic-town.html

            Reply
          • Baughman May 16, 2012, 4:12 pm

            Good dialogue. Wikipedia quoting Adam Smith: “By pursuing his own interest, he frequently promotes that of the society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it.”

            This is what we refer to as a positive externality, though it isn’t explicitly stated as such. By pursuing self interest, which is what Steve Jobs and Bill Gates have done, they have benefited society as a whole immensely….all by accident. This is the precise definition of a positive externality. A benefit to society that isn’t accounted for in the wages/profits reaped by the individual.

            The negative externalities of pollution, etc that you mention are fair criticisms of free markets in the absence of mechanisms to correct for externalities (such as cap & trade, taxes). However, in the presence of mechanisms such as cap & trade, pigovian taxes, the free market works pretty well and leads to economically efficient outcomes. One of the (perhaps few) useful roles of government is to try to remedy market failures, such as overproduction of negative externalities (i.e. pollution, through taxation) and underproduction of positive externalities (i.e. research and development, achieved through subsides), which are typically underinvested because R&D is not solely enjoyed by the inventor. Education is another often quoted example of a positive externality, which is why governments tend to subsidize education. In the absence of such subsides, we would collectively underinvest in education as a society.

            My closing statement on a (blog post about the internet) is that society and the public fail to account for negative externalities of government transfers (destruction of the incentives to work, and hence the positive externalities described in the quoted paragraph above) and only consider positive externalities (“poor” people like me are less likely to commit crime because we have full bellies, and presumably happier because our unproductive lifestyles have been subsidized enabling us to consume a disproportionate amount of leisure).

            Sorry if I breached the commenting etiquette. I wish we all thought about economics a bit more (and I congratulate GregK for doing so) and pondered the unintended consequences of government policies….I think our government would be in a lot better shape right now.

            Reply
            • Mr. Money Mustache May 17, 2012, 7:23 am

              Are you sukkas getting political yet again? Please tell me it is not so, because these comments work better if you don’t treat them as a forum for political chitchat.

              For the record: I would definitely use low-income status to get cheap internet access from a company I didn’t like (such as Comcast). But not from one I liked.

              Similarly, In my current wealth situation, I would not use government assistance to get school lunches or reduced elementary school tuition even if we did qualify.

              Instead, we provide EXTRA money and volunteer time to our school voluntarily just to help it recover from the recent period of below-average ranking, and to say thanks for doing such a good job with our kid.

              But I don’t fault others for making other choices based on whatever they feel is most appropriate.

              Reply
              • Tracy Smith May 17, 2012, 11:08 am

                UPVOTE!

              • GregK May 17, 2012, 11:21 am

                Sorry MMM. Won’t happen again :-)

  • Daisy @ Add Vodka May 16, 2012, 7:22 am

    Interesting – I’m not sure if this is legal in Canada (it should be), but I’m always so surprised when I see that everyone in an apartment building has their own wifi. This is a good idea.

    Reply
  • Jen May 16, 2012, 7:35 am

    We live in a high-rise building in a multi-million metropolis. Without any additional antennas my laptop picks up at least ten reasonably strong wireless signals – I assume from neighbours on the same floor, as well as floors below and above. Always had this nagging thought that it is ridiculous that people living so physically close to each other have to pay ten separate bills, while we could easily share one connection.
    The problem is that all communications we have with our neighbours is just a nod in the elevator. Ah, the disease of urban societies. Though it is an interesting idea – becoming friends with your neighbours may result in some cash saving :)

    Reply
    • ErikZ May 21, 2012, 10:22 am

      Some cash savings, and when it goes down because their router needs rebooting or something else goes wrong?

      You can’t fix it. It’s not yours.

      Reply
      • Mr. Money Mustache May 21, 2012, 11:37 am

        Actually, Jen specifically used the word “Friends” – meaning people you talk to regularly. You can call or visit them if the internet access goes out.

        Reply
        • Jane June 13, 2012, 1:28 pm

          This is what we do, share with our downstairs neighbor. The distance is so slight that no extra equipment of any kind is necessary. And I’d hope if you’re in a good enough relationship to consider sharing a monthly bill in the first place minor issues afterward would be easy to sort out. It’s been about 2 years for us, and we love it!

          Reply
      • Blal June 18, 2014, 9:21 am

        Actually, most errors occur on the Router > Internet side. You can use your still active connection to the local network to remotely access the router and reboot it without ever leaving the computer. It may sound complicated, but all typical routers have a Web Service page, so long as you know the IP (bookmark it so you don’t need to remember it) and the default username and password (admin / admin), it takes about 3 clicks to reset.

        Reply
  • Patrick May 16, 2012, 7:47 am

    Been doing this for the last 6 years now…it was even harder back then. Got a router that we could flash DD-WRT onto and attach some higher db antennas. It was a PITA back then. Although this whole thing of expanding the range with a bigger antenna is appealing!

    Reply
    • Matt G May 16, 2012, 8:14 am

      You can easily get a DD-WRT Compatible router, the WRT54GL from newegg (notice the L at the end of the model)

      http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16833124190

      Reply
    • Will June 28, 2013, 3:20 pm

      I use the antenna shown above, with two ubiquity titanium bullets to send the signals to and fro from my main internet access point, the place where the service providers antenna could access their wireless system on our land, to my home. I pay for the entire deal, but it saved me on installation costs and now services two homes, not just one, quite adequately.

      Before the wireless access was installed, I boosted it with a small 1 watt signal booster plugged into that antenna and the usp port, I was able to send and receive at over 1 Mpbs connected to a winery’s router from over one mile away, with a perfectly clear line of site.

      Reply
  • Mr. Risky Startup May 16, 2012, 7:59 am

    I manage small Internet company in Canada and here is my 5 cents:

    1. To fight cable company, try looking around for small independent provider in your area. Even if you pay a few bucks more (and you probably will not), you are going to be doing best thing for increased competition.

    2. If you have a neighbourhood looking for shared wireless Internet (mesh), your BEST solution is Meraki (http://www.meraki.com/products/wireless/mr62). My company has been on the sidelines when it comes to mesh networks until Meraki showed up. Now we have customers like University residences, town centres etc. Best part – you can impose limits per user (even provide more speed for those who paid more for example) so that there are no issues with “my neighbour uses torrents and hogs all the traffic”… Meraki is easy to set-up, you can grow it by adding one of these boxes on every house (or every 2nd or 3rd house).

    Check it out.

    Reply
    • JZ May 16, 2012, 12:06 pm

      I don’t know; the apartment we just moved out of (with police action pending when they decided to enter the unit without notice, throw everything in it away, and prep the space for the next tenant five days before our lease and rent expired) used Meraki. I could do light internet surfing, but the connection reset or dropped so often that streaming, games, and a lot of other applications were straight out.

      Reply
      • Mr RiskyStartup.com May 16, 2012, 12:18 pm

        Question is if it was the Meraki equipment or Internet connection that dropped out? With Meraki you can monitor all the wireless AP’s through the cloud. Since November 2011, we sold about 200 of these and have yet to have single AP fail or die. Every time there was an issue, it was either Internet related (Internet drops out) or internal networking related (client wireless access card fails, or their router dies).

        In your case, it could have been a misconfiguration on the Meraki side (or they are using Meraki boxes from 5 years ago without licence – hence no upgrades to newest protocols).

        Reply
  • jlcollinsnh May 16, 2012, 8:13 am

    While I applaud your efforts, reading the post title I was hoping for some more user friendly tips on bringing the Comcast dog to heel.

    The constant efforts to pick our pocket has made them our least favorite service.

    We used to have a phone/TV/internet package at a reasonable rate. One day they decided the rate was “introductory” and it had expired. We responded by dropping the phone service.

    now they’re telling us the various black boxes they have scattered around our house require rental payments. the most recent at $17 per month. crips, their total cost for the thing is likely less than that.

    our local alternative is Fairpoint but their reputation is even worse….

    Reply
    • I.P. Daley May 16, 2012, 8:44 am

      Fortunately, there’s been similar such discussions already in the forums!
      http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/forum/share-your-badassity/communications-tech-isps-voip-cell/

      As for a short list on taming Comcast if they’re the only game in town?
      -See if Earthlink is able to offer service through Comcast in your area. Smaller data packages (3Mbps is quite livable), lower prices, and no mandatory TV package (as far as I’m to understand). http://www.earthlink.net/access/cable.faces
      -Switch your phone service to a VoIP Provider like VOIPo or Future Nine. http://www.voipo.com/http://www.future-nine.com/
      -Use a digital tuner to receive free local broadcasts via QAM on your “internet” only Comcast cable and/or use rabbit ears and streaming internet services like Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Prime VOD, Crackle, CBS.com, etc., etc.

      Reply
    • Jimbo May 16, 2012, 9:07 am

      Definitely drop the cable! And then, all of a sudden, you just have the internet to shop around… I’m sure other options exist.

      We use a very small internet service provider that we found online and through word-of-mouth.

      Unlimited, all the fixins we need… Don’t have to pay the big dogs for this service, and believe me in Canada the Major Telecoms are worse than anything I have ever heard of in the States…

      Reply
    • Clint May 16, 2012, 11:19 am

      If you want a home phone other than a cell, I highly recommend Magic Jack. Seems too good to be true, but it really works. Voicemail can be checked online and when you cut off your computer at night, calls go to the mailbox. I’ve been using it for about two years–20 bucks a year plus the device. Don’t remember the price, but about $40 to $50.

      Reply
      • Tanner May 18, 2012, 4:19 pm

        Google voice is free and buy an onion device from amazon. For $40 to $50 that connects to your old home phone.. Then your good to go. Better deal than magic jack plus free texting on smart phones or web browser. I know MMM has mentioned this a bunch of times. :)

        Reply
  • Sergey May 16, 2012, 8:15 am

    Isn’t using a wireless access point considered “sharing” anyway? Or does it mean you can’t share it with another household?

    I also don’t pay for the Internet. Everywhere I lived, there was an unsecured Linksys network. Slow, but enough for me. This thing allows to connect to even the most distant networks – http://www.amazon.com/Alfa-Wireless-Original-Screw-On-9dBi/dp/B001O9X9EU/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1337177638&sr=8-2 In my neighborhood, I can see about 30-40 networks depending on weather and its placement.

    It can also be used to crack WEP encryption ;)

    Reply
    • Nicholas May 18, 2012, 11:46 am

      Sergey,
      What kind of distance does that omni-directional mamoth give you?

      Reply
  • fiveoh May 16, 2012, 8:26 am

    I HATE comcast with a passion. I’ve HAD to use them(only provider for my apt complex) a few times. Horrible spotty service, horrible customer service, and short “promo” deals that expire and leave you paying high rates. I use att uverse now and while I dont like it either, I dislike it far less than comcast.

    Reply
  • Yuriy May 16, 2012, 8:35 am

    Just be careful with security when you use this type of setup. Turn on the highest encryption the router/access point has to offer. If anybody within 1000 feet of your house can get on your network and read your traffic, now everybody has access to your files, your printer, probably everything on all your computers because your PCs are unlikely to be secure.

    If a lot of people start doing this sort of thing, this type of hacking (nevermind the more benevolent cases of your friends just wanting to look at some of your stuff) will be a major problem. I’m afraid you may be doing your readers a disservice by glossing over the technical details of setting up the network. Unknowledgeable people setting up neighborhood wide networks pose a real danger. I hope this isn’t taken as fearmongering — I think it’s a great idea, but if you are going to be sharing your apartment’s little digital world with other people — do your homework.

    Reply
    • Sergey May 16, 2012, 9:36 am

      Unknowledgeable people just won’t figure out this stuff.
      And yes, using WPA2 is a must. Can also be used with 802.1x but it’s a kind of overkill :)

      Reply
      • jimbob June 24, 2012, 9:57 am

        And turn off WPS if your router has it enabled (the kind with the 8 digit pin number or a button on the router that saves you having to type in the password). There’s a new tool called reaver that can brute force it in less than a day. It’s as much of a risk as using WEP

        Reply
    • GregK May 16, 2012, 9:37 am

      It’s also probably a good idea to hide your network completely. It’s a (very small) bit more work setting up new devices, since you’ll have to know and type in the name of the network, but it pretty much eliminates people trying to piggy-back your network, since nobody will know it exists if you don’t tell them about it.

      Reply
      • biscuitweb May 16, 2012, 12:58 pm

        A better option, if you have the inclination, is to broadcast two networks. One secured and one unsecured. Split the traffic so your secured network has priority.

        This way you can broadcast extra bandwidth to your neighbors for free.

        Reply
    • Spork May 18, 2012, 9:37 am

      Additional security considerations not mentioned (or I didn’t see them).

      Tying 2 houses together is cool… but you absolutely should limit these ties. You will want to firewall your friend’s house from your house. Sure, you are friends, but do you really want him to have the ability to poke around your computers? I think not.

      And remember: we are not talking about “your friend”… we are talking about everyone that steps into your friend’s house. And if your friend is less than technically savvy, he might just accidentally leak your data connection through an additional open wireless access point. This is like putting an ethernet jack on your curb next to your mailbox with a big sign that says “free kiddie porn may be downloaded here.”

      And while I’m on that topic: make sure you trust your friend, his friends, and anyone that walks into his house. Whomever pays the bill is on the hook for any illegal activities that originate from this connection. This means illegal porn, hacking and all those pesky copyright violations. And while you may or may not care about some of these…. Let me assure you there are deep pockets out there with lots of resources that DO CARE.

      (I’ve had more than my share of dealings with law enforcement and RIAA/MPAA on these matters in my line of work. Think seriously about this.)

      Reply
    • Dan May 29, 2012, 11:30 am

      Also on top of WPA2 you could also do MAC authentication. Every network card has a unique “number”, much like an IP address. You can easily find your neighbors’ MAC address and insert them into the router and they will be the only devices that will be able to access the Wi-Fi. This method along with a strong password using WPA2 would be next to impossible to break into. It is just another layer of security. Also not broadcasting the SSID like another commenter stated is an excellent idea. Nobody else will even “see” the Wi-Fi signal unless they have the SSID name.

      Reply
      • jimbob June 24, 2012, 10:05 am

        Not a bad idea, but anyone who can break into your network would also be able to fake their MAC address. You’re right though, all these things you’ve mentioned are additional layers of security that will help reduce the risk.

        Reply
  • tddoog May 16, 2012, 8:48 am

    Me and a friend who live in a rowhome on the same block as me just did this. We used two EnGenius EOC-2611P Outdoor High Power 600mW Access Point and it worked pretty well. We each also bought a Western Digital My Book Live 3 TB Personal Cloud Storage Drive
    to put our media on for NAS storage and to set up offsite backups. My files are backed up at his house and his at mine and all are accessible over the net. Doing off site backups this way is a lot cheaper and faster than paying monthly for a terabyte of cloud storage.

    Reply
  • mike May 16, 2012, 9:04 am

    It’s interesting to watch a monopoly’s response when the cash cow suddenly sprouts a brain and walks out the door. The cable industry eventually might have to (gasp!) do something competitive if they want to stay in business. But nah, they’ll probably follow in the well-worn footsteps of similarly uncompetetive incumbants and seek protection by sponsoring BS legislation rather than stooping to the level of actually responding to their customers’ desires.

    Reply
  • Bella May 16, 2012, 9:16 am

    I don’t have anythign really interesting to say about the shared internet setup – I can’t imagine we would do it – There are about a million other ways I would rather save that money. But I wanted to pipe up that I hate Comcast too. In fact, a few years ago they had some salespeople come to my door to try to sell me. I explained to them (and this was the truth). It’s been so long – I can’t remember what the reason was that I dropped Comcast – but I can still remember the intense hatred and frustration I felt when I swore I would never be their customer again. So – No Thanks!

    Reply
  • Andre (SF) Nader May 16, 2012, 9:40 am

    Let us know when the comcast lawyers show up at your door!

    So many things can go wrong with this, I don’t even think it is worth the savings. Plus you just became the neighborhood IT guy if anyone has issues with their internet. What happens when someone starts downloading mass amounts of stuff while you want to watch netflix or if your neighbor starts downloading some shady things that get tracked back to your IP.

    I do hate comcast/timewarner/ATT all of them though. All we want is cheap fast internet, yet they keep extorting us every year and killing all competition.

    Reply
    • Matt May 16, 2012, 12:20 pm

      I hate to make a redundant comment, but I think one of Andre (SF) Nader’s points bears repeating: “What happens when… your neighbor starts downloading some shady things that get tracked back to your IP?”

      Save my or my wife’s parents, I can’t think of anyone that I trust enough to share my Internet with. It’s not like the child porn people openly talk about it—do you want that kind of stuff being downloaded on your account? Or how about illegal file sharing? Even if you think it’s OK, and have been doing it for years and never “got caught”, maybe you’re just not doing it enough to be flagged. But now you’re sharing your connection, and you’re potentially sharing 2x or 3x (or more). The account owner is liable for all of that, particularly if he’s violating the terms of service (TOS) agreement with his ISP.

      So, to *really* do this right, I think you would need a fairly sophisticated router: one that can do filtering of traffic (e.g. blacklisting obviously shady sites). Even though there are plenty of legitimate uses for bittorrent, I think you’d have to block it on the shared connections just to CYA. And, assuming that sharing isn’t a violation of the TOS with your ISP, you should also log all activity from the shared nodes—and save all these logs for many years (which, to do right, involves backups, preferably off-site). And if you’re really paranoid, you might have a lawyer draw up a liability release contract that you require to be signed by everyone with whom you share your Internet connection.

      I’ve even heard horror stories about people who didn’t secure their WiFi, and some shady person stole it and put it to bad use—really scary things, like using the unsecured Internet as a starting point for cracking government or military sites. Even if you’re ultimately cleared, do you want to be targeted by the FBI as a potential spy? So the bigger your broadcast radius, the more secure you need to make your shared Internet. The bare minimum is an unadvertised SSID, WPA2 security (with a *real* key, such as one generated by uuidgen), and MAC filtering. If I were to do this, I’d even take it a step further, and require a VPN connection to my internal LAN before the wireless client could use my Internet.

      All these things are done by for-pay ISPs, and in companies where employees have Internet access. And broad sharing of your Internet connection effectively makes you an ISP as well.

      I’m all for sticking it to the Comcast-man, but I think there are more efficient ways to do so. First would probably to educate people as to why Comcast, and other mega-ISPs, often have an effective monopoly in their community. My understanding is that cities often negotiate exclusivity deals with these companies. This is definitely a situation where people need to be involved in their local politics. People need to understand the issues, so that these well-funded disinformation propaganda campaigns no longer work.

      Reply
      • biscuitweb May 16, 2012, 1:10 pm

        That’s all fear mongering.

        I run a TOR exit node. This means my extra bandwidth is the unencrypted bridge back to all sorts of people who want to hide their traffic. I did some homework when I set it up; I wrote a policy (including that traffic would never be logged–this is much safer than logging), contacted the local police to explain what I was up to (they didn’t seem interested). I’ve never had a problem.

        Reply
        • Mr. Money Mustache May 17, 2012, 7:02 am

          Interesting points. I agree with Andre and Matt to a certain point – it is possible to get in trouble for misusing an internet connection. Because of this, I don’t recommend sharing a connection with anyone you don’t trust fully.

          But I also recommend not being too stingy with your trust. On average, you’ll get a lot further in life by trusting a little too much, than trusting a little too little. Trust enables strong friendships, partnerships and trade, which is where all wealth comes from.

          Getting burned occasionally is nothing compared to living a life without strong trusting friendships. Burns are just useful lessons.

          For this article, I set up the trial sharing with just one other person, and even that may not be permanent. The main goal is to share the knowledge, and to publicize Comcast’s election-hijacking.

          Reply
          • annom May 20, 2012, 7:17 pm

            I agree. About a year ago I gave my neighbors my internet password. They had been having some hard times and at the time I thought they were a bit shady. All I said was just don’t download anything illegal. They said they wouldn’t and I took them at their word. A year later and we get along well. They actually turned out to be really nice people. In the end, giving them access to free internet was the right thing (consider it local charity) and I’d do it again in a heart beat. If I get in major trouble for showing a bit of kindness then fuck the world.

            Reply
          • reader from the rockies February 22, 2013, 11:00 pm

            I can appreciate your comment about trust. But….if your friends or neighbors do something seriously shady, you can get in major legal trouble (think federal penitentiary). You may have to explain to the FBI why you were downloading that kiddie porn, or checking out how to make a bomb. I have heard that most child porn websites are actually FBI sting sites. Is the risk/benefit ratio really favorable here? Do you know and trust your friends that much? I agree that simply sharing is probably not so great. A setup with a separate firewall and filtering would be the minimum.

            Reply
  • Reverend May 16, 2012, 9:49 am

    I’d keep the shared part of the wifi connection on WPA2, NOT broadcasting the SSID and keep it on a guest VLAN and separate from mine.

    Of course, I also have a NAS with my files on it that I wouldn’t want anyone to have access too, so even further security measures would have that one locked down pretty tight too.

    If you’re looking to just share with ONE neighbor, then you can look into the home-made high-gain antennas (seriously, it’s like coffee-can and string stuff). Instructables surely has a write-up on them.

    Reply
  • B May 16, 2012, 10:04 am

    MMM what service provider do you use? I looked through my user agreement and I didn’t see anything prohibiting sharing but perhaps I missed it.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache May 17, 2012, 7:11 am

      Good! I’m glad your provider is not artificially trying to lock things down.

      Ethically, I think of it as just like an old-school DVD rental. If I rent a movie and like it, and want to lend it to a friend to watch before it is due to be returned, that sounds like fair use to me – regardless of what conditions the rental store or studio try to impose on me.

      On the other hand, if I make a copy of the movie to keep permanently, and/or start sharing that copy around on the internet, I can see how they would start getting upset.

      I decided not to mention my own internet service provider for this article, since just because I want to keep the details vague in a highly public forum like this. I’ll let you all know if any trouble does arise from this arrangement!

      Just as with signing myself up for the unnecessary credit card in March, I am happy to be the guinea pig in the interest of getting a good story.

      Reply
    • Joe August 12, 2012, 11:42 am

      I ran a non-profit that provided community WiFi in low income areas. As such, we looked at these agreements a lot. They fall into a couple of categories:

      1) no-reselling, sharing ok.

      This is a typical non-home agreement. E.g. most versions of “business” internet allow this. We used a lot of these types of links, typically from the local cable company (which was NOT comcast). Strictly speaking, choosing one of these would NOT allow you to share costs with a neighbor. Practically speaking, no-one cares. The business services often come with much better service, extra IPs and other niceties. For us, it was worth the extra bucks to be legal. We know of people who have formed “Co-Ops” to make this legal. E.g., good for a housing association or similar.

      2) no-sharing, but the company is ok with it

      We found a couple of local DSL providers who had “no sharing” clauses in their TOS, but had stated publicly that those clauses were there to allow them recourse if a connection was being abused, but that in reality they had no problem with sharing. The original Speakeasy DSL provider was one of these. Another still-popular provider, DSL Extreme, is another.

      In general, the AT&T’s, Comcasts etc. frown on this and make it a big problem. The “2nd tier” providers are happy for the business and will work with you quite openly if you work with them.

      Reply
  • No Name Guy May 16, 2012, 10:17 am

    I punched Comcast in the face several years ago, then shat upon them for good measure when I cancelled my cable. Fuck them and their crap-tacular so called service. For years, they were the only game in town, now there are other options. I happened to choose the no TV one.

    Reply
    • Bobby Broughton August 7, 2013, 5:56 am

      I dropkicked Dish Network, but you don’t have to go without TV. There are several good options now for TV :-). I love Roku boxes.

      Reply
  • GregK May 16, 2012, 11:10 am

    MMM, I don’t follow your last point about tuning into a nearby wifi network… how would that work? What did I miss??

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache May 17, 2012, 7:15 am

      Good question Greg!

      Outdoor access points like the TP-link one in the picture can run in various modes: “Access point”, where they broadcast their own wireless network for people to connect to, or “client”, where they connect to someone else’s network.

      If you set it to client, then use its “site survey” feature, you’ll get a list of dozens of available networks, along with their signal strength in db. Since even the built-in smaller antenna is highly directional, this list will change as you sit on the roof and rotate the antenna slowly. When you find one, click “connect”, and you are now sharing that network.

      The TP-link is plugged via an Ethernet cable into the “WAN” port on your home router, which will in turn share the internet connectivity through your home network. So the TP-link replaces your cable/DSL modem in this mode.

      Reply
      • GregK May 17, 2012, 11:52 am

        Wow… I don’t really understand how a receiver can extend the range of a wifi signal… but it certainly appears to work, from what you say and what I’ve now read elsewhere.

        Does your mega-antenna have that capability (or a home-brew version, which I’m considering attempting with my old TV Satelite dish — since I cut my umbilical cord, obviously), and the extended range? If you’re not sure, I’ll post back if/when I eventually attempt it.

        http://www.engadget.com/2005/11/15/how-to-build-a-wifi-biquad-dish-antenna/

        Reply
  • jared May 16, 2012, 11:40 am

    For your next bad-ass project, how about building your own cantennas? A can-tenna is a home made yagi antenna that you can make from a pringles can. A few years back I had heard of ranges over a mile! The downside is it is a point to point connection, so no wireless in the yard. The upside is it is a point to point connection, so more secure.

    Reply
  • andrew May 16, 2012, 11:50 am

    I don’t think I’d be comfortable doing this. Imagine one of your neighbors who is sharing the connection downloads child porn… the authorities will be knocking on the door of the person who’s name is on the account.

    Reply
    • Kevin Meyers May 16, 2012, 12:16 pm

      Bingo. Exact same reason why I lock down my wifi signal with a password. The feds can bust down your door at 6am for anything that is done over your connection.

      I don’t know – this seems a bit in the gray area of frugality ethics to me. Sort of like stealing ketchup packets from restaurants. Whatever happened to getting rich with good old fashioned honesty?

      Reply
    • Wesley May 16, 2012, 1:16 pm

      I second this. While you may be friends with your neighbors, you can’t know them that well, and internet usage is a somewhat anonymous activity at this point (likely to change due to dumbass politicians), which often leads to uncharacteristic behavior. I’d hate for their animal porn viewing to be brought up on MMM’s ISP logs in the future.

      We all know that MMM only gets down to bicycle porn!

      Reply
  • kris May 16, 2012, 12:24 pm

    Is there a way to subscribe to comments other than by leaving a comment? Or is there a way to see the new comments without digging for them?

    Reply
  • GE Miller May 16, 2012, 3:00 pm

    I’ve contemplated this idea and have been one of the most vocal Comcast haters on the web, but have a few concerns:

    1. Legality: what are the comcast TOS on this? I’m guessing they would shut you down, if caught, but I wonder if there are potential legal consequences beyond that.
    2. Dickhead neighbors: I’m sure the neighbors you arrange with would be fine, but what about the dickheads who report anything/everything? I have one right next door.
    3. Over-subscription: If I have a 10mb/s connection and 5 neighbors on at the same time streaming, are we all fucked with slow speeds?
    4. Cost: how much did all that equipment cost you? How many “neighbor months” does it take to pay you back?

    Reply
    • GregK May 16, 2012, 3:28 pm

      Way to bring up some valid concerns without a hint of wussypants paranoia!

      The “neighbor-months” is probably going to be a formula, not a number, since MMM is presumably splitting the bill equally with other participants. For example, two neighbors (plus MMM) would split $50 three ways, or $16.67 each, saving $33.33/month, while four neighbors would split $50/month 5 ways, or pay $10 each, saving $40/month — not double.

      That said, my back-of-the-napkin calculations put his all-in-cost somewhere around $100. If he’s splitting it 4 ways, he’ll be in the black by August.

      Alternatively, MMM could reasonably ask to be paid for his ingenuity and upfront cost, and charge those three neighbors $25 each (half-price internet!), in which case it would be a 4-neighbor-month payback, after which he would be making money by having internet, rather than paying. Now that’s Badassity.

      Reply
    • Matt May 17, 2012, 11:01 am

      Regarding over-subscription: generally, yes, you’re hosed if everyone simultaneously wants to utilize the maximum bandwidth of your connection.

      However, if you want to get fancy, you can set up QoS (quality of service) policies on your router. Not sure if out-of-the-box routers will do this, but I *think* (not sure) DD-WRT and pfsense can. But certainly if you do it all by hand, that is, build a router using Linux or a BSD, and manually configure the routing rules, you can set up bandwidth limits by service.

      The classic example for this is VOIP, since no one wants to have a garbled conversation. You basically set up a rule on your router that says “VOIP traffic gets top priority with a guaranteed minimum of X bits/sec”.

      You could collaborate with your neighbors as to what you all consider the most important use of bandwidth, and partition it out accordingly. Or you could just be the connection nazi and give yourself priority over your neighbors. :)

      Point is, with a more sophisticated routing config, you can somewhat improve the shared line experience. However, this doesn’t magically get you more bandwidth. If everybody wants to download e.g. a Linux DVD at the same time, there’s not much you can do.

      Of course for general web browsing, you could set up a caching proxy, such as squid. If you and your neighbors have any overlap in your browsing habits, this would reduce the load on your Internet connection.

      Reply
  • Marie May 16, 2012, 3:09 pm

    What a hoot! I had a good chuckle after reading this just getting home from work (not FI yet….but this web site is good support as I make the saving journey). I think I’m too lazy for this effort plus I’m still licking my wounds from a condo I use to own where the residents fought like cats and cats over special maintenance assessments. Now I keep my neighbor relationships to non-business friendship interactions.

    Your imagination is limitless. What’s next? Homemade solar panels for small appliances (crockpots?). :-)

    Reply
  • Mr RiskyStartup.com May 16, 2012, 7:54 pm

    Wow, this post and comments just gave me great idea – I know how I can help people put giant cable companies in their place. I will start the web page tonight and report back soon.

    Reply
  • George May 16, 2012, 8:46 pm

    I am glad to see that someone is sticking it to Comcast! I have hated this company with a passion for years. For about 4 years up until just about 6 months ago I live out in a remote area in the country where the only high speed internet in town was Comcast.

    I was a full-time telecommuter and needed a really fast Internet connection to get my work done. Thus, comcast had me by the balls several times with their crappy quality lines and other issues. The most annoying thing about them is that they try to upsell you every time you call them about a service problem, i.e. “(me calling comcast): um yeah my internet signal has dropped again (comcast): oh I’m sorry to hear that, would you like to upgrade to our comcast digital double play for only $19.99 extra for the next 4 months?”

    In the end though I save a bunch of money by living in the country and only paying $360 per month in rent for a nice place. Yet, I still have that hatred for comcast. Someday Comcast is going to end up like blockbuster (when blockbuster used to be just as arrogant in the 90s with their late fees on VHS tapes). Way to go MMM for accelerating the process to comcast’s demise!!

    Reply
  • Shannon May 16, 2012, 9:04 pm

    OMG! MMM is so cute :) Is that really you that held the antenna? I am thinking you are an older man. What’s a surprise! More pictures please :)

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache May 17, 2012, 6:55 am

      Aww, thanks a lot Shannon. It’s nice to see that even nerdy financial and frugality bloggers can get a taste of the celebrity lifestyle these days. (I received one email with a marriage proposal this morning as well). Time to start blogs, single men out there!

      Also, I’m glad my grumpy-old-man attitude carries across effectively in text form. I’m 37 right now, probably right in the middle of the age range of readers. Very old to some. Laughably junior to others.

      Reply
  • Kim May 16, 2012, 10:22 pm

    The only issue with this is when the net goes out and has to be restarted or something and the house of origination is empty or gone on vacation. It’s also a pain to come over and say, “I’m sorry, is the Internet not working today?” every time to see if it’s me or them.

    Reply
    • Stavros May 17, 2012, 7:51 am

      Put the equipment in your garage and give them access to reboot/etc. Presumably these are people you have some level of trust with. I let me neighbors into my garage to borrow my mower and such.

      Reply
  • Dark Sector May 16, 2012, 11:14 pm

    I was hoping for a good technical discussion on the fun use of radio technology in the comments, but found almost none. Therefore, I’ll supply all of this myself at the risk of thinking I’m really smart.

    That higher gain antenna you bought looks very directional. Unless you have some sort of rudimentary way of probing the antenna pattern (in both the near and far field) with a 802.11 transceiver (a netbook, perhaps), I’m certain you’re not going to get an isotropic broadcast signal for your wifi phone or for anything else.

    Antennas are fun. As an exercise, try working out the physics. You’ll need to review PDEs, Maxwell’s equations, and some special relativity Minkowsky space. The amount of knowledge awaiting is positively awesome.

    A good, cheal website I’ve found to buy coax and other similar RF/computer components is l-com.com

    Reply
  • Two9A May 17, 2012, 2:10 am

    I’ve done just this for many years: I live across the road from my parents, so they have cable hooked up to a wireless AP, and I have a client AP in my bedroom window which picks up the signal.

    They’re close enough that I don’t even need a 3dB omnidirectional antenna, never mind that 24dB monstrosity. The only downside is that I’m using a connection sharing technology that only works with WEP encryption.

    The upside is, of course, that I don’t pay for Internet, and I can have a VoIP phone line, with everything piped through my parents’ cable connection. Hundreds of dollars saved.

    Reply
  • Jay May 17, 2012, 5:00 am

    Everyone missed the most compelling item from the article. MMM showed us pics from the inner and outer sanctum of mustacism! His humble abode is not as humble as I expected it to be! And while they are frugal, the inside seemed to be furnished nicely. The only thing I question is what the fuck is a purple monkey doing hanging on the wall in the kitchen?

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache May 17, 2012, 6:45 am

      You must be a new reader, Jay!

      I’m always trying to tell people that the MMM family does not lead a minimalist life. It’s more of a Maximalist life – i.e., it was the most luxurious life I could reasonably conceive of a few years ago when I designed our retirement lifestyle and saved for it. It just happens to cost “only” around $25k per year, which is why I sometimes suggest that figure is actually a high-end lifestyle in the US, rather than a low-end one.

      (disclaimers: assuming a paid-off house, apply small scaling factor for family size, move out of excessively costly areas instead of complaining about them :-))

      Since starting this blog we’re drifting more towards minimalism, so I plan to get a smaller house someday. But since I will still like carpentry at that point, it will probably look just as nice inside after a few years, even if it doesn’t cost as much.

      As for the purple monkey: The reason that guy is hanging from the wall is that he has magnetic paws and feet. My son learned that there is metal embedded in every drywall outside corner of a house, so he can strategically stick the monkey up in many interesting places.

      Reply
      • Geek May 17, 2012, 11:03 am

        Is your son tall enough to reach that high already?

        Reply
  • BobInDenver May 17, 2012, 11:05 am

    I don’t know. In some sense, I think this is stealing. I view it somewhat similarly to my borrowing a CD from you, ripping it to MP3s so I can load it onto my iPod. I’ve “saved” the cost of a CD, but it’s still stealing. Just because you had the cable company doesn’t change the ethics of it.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache May 17, 2012, 11:30 am

      That’s the beauty of ideas like this – you’re free to use them, or not use them, at your discretion. As noted in the article, there are plenty of uses for long-range wi-fi that are not related to sharing an internet connection.

      There are also some internet plans that are specifically allowed to be shared among multiple sites (business plans and offerings from smaller ISPs).

      And there are many public wi-fi hotspots. With long-range knowledge, you can tune into them even if you don’t live next door.

      Reply
      • BobInDenver May 17, 2012, 2:33 pm

        “As noted in the article, there are plenty of uses for long-range wi-fi that are not related to sharing an internet connection.”

        Yes, but that wasn’t the primary point. The primary point was to share internet with your neighborhood friends to cut the cost.

        Robert X Cringely blogged about doing this over a decade ago (before blogs were blogs) when he lived in Sonoma and there was no broadband option. (http://www.pbs.org/cringely/pulpit/2001/pulpit_20010628_000421.html)

        “There are also some internet plans that are specifically allowed to be shared among multiple sites (business plans and offerings from smaller ISPs). ”

        Yes, and if that’s what you’re doing then I’m a supporter. But again, your article mostly focuses on sharing a single home internet account to save money, not setting up a business account. I fact, if you were advocating setting up your own mini-ISP business where you bought a shareable connection and then re-sold bandwidth, (or even gave it away) I’d be a fan.

        “And there are many public wi-fi hotspots. With long-range knowledge, you can tune into them even if you don’t live next door.”

        Yep, and that’s fine too, to a degree. I’m not a fan of poaching bandwidth from the local coffee shop who has free wifi, as that is a service they are providing their customers. Just because it’s technically feasible to get it from a long distance for free doesn’t make it right.

        Roll back to 20+ years ago when cable ready tvs came out, but basica cable was not encrypted. Would you be a proponent of running coax from your house to your next door neighbor’s and splitting the cable bill? A lot of people did this, but I still think that it’s stealing.

        Again, I do think that there are fine lines on all of this, what’s taking advantage of a loophole or corporate sloppiness vs what is stealing is not always easy to tell.

        Reply
        • Oh Yonghao September 10, 2014, 6:22 pm

          This is a case of reading too much into something and making assumptions of the worst moral case. Nowhere in there does he say to take a non-sharable internet connection and to share it with others. He even talks a little about looking into the ToS to make sure you can.

          On your next point he also mentions municipal wifi, we could infer the public wifi he suggested was this rather than the local coffee shop that he doesn’t go to.

          Basically your first point is nullified by your second point, and he specifically mentions that he kicked the “normal” Comcast internet with the restricted sharing ToS to the curb. He didn’t use the exact phrases and terminology of “becoming a mini-isp and reselling/giving away bandwidth” but essentially that is what he is doing. This is full of complainypantsy assumptions and waah waah waah syndrome.

          Reply
    • GregK May 17, 2012, 11:33 am

      Naw — Comcast is selling you bandwidth. Ethically, you should be able to use it up any way you choose. This is more like using air-play to play your music at your friend’s house from a single CD (which you could do with this setup!) than giving your friend a copy of the CD. MMM also has a good analogy regarding DVD rental sharing above.

      Reply
  • Bullseye May 17, 2012, 11:54 am

    Been thinking of doing something similar with a neighbor who is a good friend, 60 ft away. There is a house between us, we’re thinking of just stringing a network cable across that houses roof! We’d ask, and don’t think he’d mind.

    I assume we’d be able to see all traffic the other has pretty easily? even though I’m not very worried about a friend being able to do this, I can still think of some instances when I wouldn’t want it (and no, not thinking porn!)

    Reply
  • David Galloway May 17, 2012, 12:06 pm

    Great stuff, MMM and relevant to my interests.

    I’m working toward building a rural intentional community in the next 3-5 years and plan on getting the most affordable high-speed satellite connection available. Using your method it should be possible to provide coverage to the entire 200 acres assuming decent line-of-sight.

    Would you make any major changes to the network for this usage? I’m thinking ideally the building that receives the satellite signal should be at the highest elevation and have line-of-sight to most of the other buildings that need reliable connections.

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache May 20, 2012, 9:48 pm

      Hey David! Yeah, I think your plan is reasonable. The only change is that you’d need an omnidirectional antenna on the server building (or a bunch of separate directional ones pointing in various directions).

      Also, you’ve probably already learned this but satellite connections are usually pretty slow in the upstream direction. They’ll still allow basic email and web surfing, but unless the technology has changed since I last looked into it, they’re not really a replacement for city-style internet access.

      That may be fine for a utopian hippy-style community where you want people to stop using gadgets so much anyway. You’ll just have to rule out any software developers who need speedy connections to work from home.

      P.S. I see you wrote about this post on Lifehacker – thanks! http://lifehacker.com/5911812/share-your-internet-connection-using-an-outdoor-wireless-access-point

      Reply
    • Spork May 21, 2012, 7:19 am

      The main problem you’ll encounter with satellite ISPs is “fair use policy.” I’m not talking about what MMM referred to as “what we say you can do with your connection.” Satellite FUP is a strictly enforced bytes-per-day (or hour) cap. When you hit the cap, your connection either TURNS OFF or your bandwidth gets turned down to less than dialup speeds — and this turn down will generally last 24-48 hours. This isn’t something you’ll hit watching 10 hours of netflix — you can hit your fair use max by doing insane things like “windows update”.
      Satellites also have terrible latency. Even if the speed is good, the latency can be awful. This isn’t so bad for web surfing, but if you want to do voice, it’s awful. (You will be talking with a half second delay — which makes conversations very difficult).

      You might check cellular if you are in a rural area. Cell towers tend to cover most of the nation at varying speeds. The per-month price is cheaper than satellite and the base install/equipment cost is MUCH less. Latency is also much better with cellular. You might have to try several cell carriers to find one that has decent signal in your area.

      Reply
  • Stavros May 17, 2012, 1:05 pm

    Now I know I’m just getting carried away thinking about this idea… With my 3 neighbors, I could set up a reasonably strong omnidirectional antenna ($200 estimate) and routers in their attics to broadcast to their homes ($150ish for all three estimate) and then charge them $25/mo. This would cover my costs for equipment and pay for my internet. With avoided costs and small ‘profit’ over internet cost for my time, that works out to be about $900/year after the equipment costs are recouped! That’s over $10k every ten years once invested!

    C’mon now, this is lunacy, do I really want to be doing this?

    Reply
    • Spork May 21, 2012, 7:27 am

      I can assure you: once you start charging for reselling the service, you’ve moved out of the gray area of “is this allowed” into a very black/white area. Be careful here or you will be charged with theft of service.

      To be able to resell this, you’ll have to buy commercial service. This comes with
      a) an immensely higher cost
      b) a contract where they promise to deliver a set quality of service. (I.e, if you buy a 10M pipe, you will GET a 10M pipe, not “best effort” to provide you a 10M pipe.)

      Reply
  • John May 17, 2012, 3:21 pm

    This makes me want to go out and play Man in the Middle and see what people are doing. I guess its the lurker in me. Just be sure your Pandora/Hulu/Netflix passwords aren’t the same as your email/banking passwords and you should be good. If they are the same then you have to hope someone isn’t smart enough to download backtrack (or a thousand other programs) and run it off a flash drive with a decent NIC.

    Reply
  • Robin May 17, 2012, 7:58 pm

    We live on a small city lot so our neighbors house is only 10 feet from ours. We’re lucky because they pick up on our wifi signal with no extra hardware. We split the city wifi with them and pay only $9 each for about 6 megs! Take that Comcast!

    I’m so glad you mentioned Republic wireless! We’re on Beta wave L and I can’t wait to get it. Take that big cell phone companies!

    Reply
  • Jamesqf May 17, 2012, 11:42 pm

    I want to thank you all for your comments on Comcast and others. I feel SO much better about Charter now that I’ve read them :-) Especially since I recently managed to “upgrade” to a faster connection at about half what I’ve been paying.

    I have to wonder, though: what happens to the neighbors’ shared service when you turn your system off?

    I also agree with the people who’ve pointed out the potential security problems. It’s why my default is hard-wired connections, wifi turned off, and router/cable modem powered down when I’m not actively working.

    Reply
  • Jump May 18, 2012, 11:41 am

    This was actually the first thing that popped on my head too! My friend and I were always going to try a cantenna.

    Reply
  • Anthony May 21, 2012, 11:12 am

    You can use ‘MOCA’ adapters if you guys all have cable coming to your house and on the same tap. No wifi needed. that’s what im doing with 3 households.

    Reply
  • Anonymous May 21, 2012, 3:05 pm

    While this doesn’t help with your current cable bill, or rate increases, it is something I’ve been trying to keep an eye on.

    I have never used it, and am not an expert, but I think it is an interesting idea that could definitely benefit from more exposure.

    http://corp.fon.com/us/this-is-fon

    Reply
  • solatic May 21, 2012, 6:20 pm

    3M,

    This is an article in good spirit, but the solution you came up with – beaming the WiFi to your neighbors’ houses – is a little disingenuous.

    A better solution, if your neighbors’ houses are all close to each other and you’ll all simply be using your own WiFi routers at your own houses, is to just run the cables themselves to your neighbors. Cabling is much cheaper, more reliable, and more secure (since people can’t hack in wirelessly – those WiFi passwords are less secure than you think) than a wireless solution. Sure, you have to dig up the lawn – once – but for just a few cable’s it’s really not a big deal and with a little care you won’t even lose any grass (since it’s just a couple cables).

    Also, a side note – the cable companies do sell small-business level plans to residences. The main point behind these business plans, aside from being allowed to share the connection, is that they give you a static IP address – allowing you to run a server on your own property that you can get to from the Internet. With a little computer skill, you can run your own email, access your recorded TV and music over the Internet, business documents, run a web site, run your own Voice over Internet Protocol servers for free teleconferencing, etc. The possibilities are quite numerous.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache May 21, 2012, 8:12 pm

      Interesting idea, Solatic! Burying cables is a fine idea for people who live on adjacent lots. However, in this case I’d need to get permission from the 15 unrelated neighbors who live between me and the friend who helped with the testing. We’d need to dig up one major public road as well, plus add three repeaters since we are more than triple the maximum supported length of Ethernet over a Cat5 cable (although I guess we could lay fiber optic lines?).

      Seeing how the equipment I paid for is worth about four hours worth of labor in total (about the time it takes me to dig and re-bury 100 feet of shallow trench), I think I came out pretty far ahead with the wireless idea!

      Regarding wireless security – you folks are way too paranoid. Yes, WEP is theoretically crackable, but even that requires skills that less than 0.1% of the population have (disclosure: I worked entirely on encryption and network security products for the last five years of my software engineering career) If you move up to WPA, included with all modern routers, it’s uncrackable for all practical purposes. In a neighborhood where I don’t even lock my car doors at night, I am not afraid of somebody sneaking onto my network and discovering that I like Bluegrass music and Star Trek movies.

      A much bigger risk in life is missing out on good times with friends and family, so rather than thinking about Wi-fi security, I’d advise focusing on meeting people and building trusting relationships, as I said in another comment.

      Reply
      • Spork May 21, 2012, 9:20 pm

        The risk isn’t in busting WPA. The risk generally comes from within. That doesn’t mean your friend is untrustworthy… that means that there is likely to someday be a weak link the the chain of trust. If I had to guess, it would be a child, setting up another wireless AP … or a friend of a child that had a WPA secret stored on a wireless device.

        My paranoia comes from actually being on the investigative end of stuff just like this. RIAA/MPAA takedowns are exceedingly common. Moving up the chain from local to federal law enforcement — also not uncommon. I’ve dealt with most of them. I’m not trying to throw ice water on ya… just telling you how it is.

        Reply
        • Screamsalvation June 16, 2012, 5:21 pm

          But if torrents and things of that nature is the worry just route the network through something like OpenDNS. Set it to block torrents and anything else you may want to block. Close the ports on the router that handle bittorrent and check your traffic every so often to see what is going on.

          I know where you are coming from though as I have been on the investigative side also. With a setup like this you have to stop thinking like a parent and think more like a system admin. Just set up proper precautions and things will be ok.

          (Yes I know there are ways around all that I mentioned, but that is a fact of life.)

          Reply
  • AGil June 16, 2012, 8:21 pm

    Thanks MMM, this was the motivation I needed to install an access point at my parents house 400 meters away. Purchased two of these CPEs, and threw them in bridge mode. Loaded dd-wrt on my router and my fathers access point (both asus 16n-rt)

    It was a long 3 day project, but it came out very nice. The access points work well and as advertised by mmm. I also had the same issues with the poorly translated manual!

    The result – one Internet connection, one shared back up server, one shared printer and a bridged network that is good enough for VoIP! The fast routers with dd-wrt are key for QoS to work well in a VoIP application. If you go this route, just install dd-wrt right away, even on the access point, it was not possible to get DNS to work at the bridged location without it.

    Now that the network is VoIP capable, the next round money savings will come by replacing the phone line with a Skype analog phone adapter.

    Reply
  • Joe August 12, 2012, 12:37 pm

    Coming late to this thread, but as I (co)-ran a USA non-profit providing WiFi in low income neighborhoods, perhaps I can chime in with some of the common themes touched on above. On my street I also provided free WiFi to about 10 neighbors up and down the street — its definitely a great way to get to know them!

    ==== Is it legal? =====

    Yes, if you take the time to do it right. We looked at these agreements a lot. They fall into a couple of categories:

    1) no-reselling, sharing ok.

    This is a typical non-home agreement. E.g. most versions of “business” internet allow this. We used a lot of these types of links, typically from the local cable company (which was NOT comcast). Strictly speaking, choosing one of these would NOT allow you to share costs with a neighbor. Practically speaking, no-one cares. The business services often come with much better service, extra IPs and other niceties. For us, it was worth the extra bucks to be legal. We know of people who have formed “Co-Ops” to make this legal. E.g., good for a housing association or similar.

    2) no-sharing, but the company is ok with it

    We found a couple of local DSL providers who had “no sharing” clauses in their TOS, but had stated publicly that those clauses were there to allow them recourse if a connection was being abused, but that in reality they had no problem with sharing. The original Speakeasy DSL provider was one of these. Another still-popular provider, DSL Extreme, is another. We also used a lot of these links.

    In general, the AT&T’s, Comcasts etc. frown on sharing and will make it a problem if they find out (though practically speaking they won’t). Generally they weren’t price competitive or pleasant to deal with anyway and we used alternatives. The “2nd tier” providers are happy for the business and will work with you quite openly if you work with them when problems arise.

    Note that in other countries, like Australia, the ISPs have caps on their connections, and in my experience they don’t care AT ALL if you share. In fact they’d rather you DID share — so that you’ll use more and pay more for a higher plan!

    ==== What about abuse? ====

    Abuse comes in several forms. Worries about “my door will be busted down for the neighbor watching kiddie porn” are frankly a little disturbing! If you really think that’s a possibility with your neighbor then I’d be worried for many other reasons than sharing a WiFi connection! The only abuse we’ve seen in years of running these networks comes in the form of an email or phone call from the internet provider asking/telling us either that a) we have a virus infected machine that is attacking others on the internet, or b) someone is illegally sharing movies and could they please stop. In the case of virus computers, we can usually look at the traffic and block the computer. Similarly for movie sharing, though that tends to go away if we beef up the sign in notice saying that we’ve had a complaint.

    Our most troubling abuse is people using the network too much! But we tend to think of that as “a good problem to have”. One thing we did to mitigate this was to add a “captive portal” which kicks back in every 4 hours. I.e. a screen comes up on the browser saying “please click here to continue”. This effectively stops people from running file sharing servers on a regular basis. Otoh, its also a problem for network devices like TIVOs, but you can setup whitelists for those.

    Touch wood, we’ve never had the police involved in any way at all. From stories shared with similar groups to ours, the police are on the whole pretty sophisticated, and also quite sympathetic. They know that others will use an open network, and typically won’t assume its the owner. IIRC, there is already case law that says a person with an open access point cannot be held responsible for what others use it for, and are not required to police it. (In the same way that Comcast is not responsible for what you do on their network). The key word there is “open”. Once you encrypt it, it gets a little more muddy.

    ==== What about security? ====

    Can people see the files on your computer, access your secrets? Unless you set it up to prevent this, YES, they can! However, its relatively easy to stop this. I’ll talk about this more in the section below. On my own simple street network, the funniest example we had of that was someone printing something on their neighbors printer. Caused a bit of head scratching the first time! Fortunately it was a printout for bible class, so no harm done. I blocked all device to device sharing soon after this ;).

    Personally, I don’t secure my home personal router. I leave it wide open for guests who come by with the iphones and ipads etc., and if a nearby neighbor needs it, I think that’s great.

    I DO take security of our individual computers very seriously though – I’m a bit of a privacy nut. By always assuming that everything sent or received from my computer is visible, I make sure that I always use https for websites (especially email!!!). And file sharing is always password only and hidden. And I use programs like lastpass & roboform to help me never use the same password at more than one website. My wife isn’t so diligent about passwords, but her computer is connected via ethernet so its not as critical.

    ==== Will it be slow? ====

    Generally speaking, no. We often have 30-40 people actively using a connection (and 100-200 might use that connection during a 24 hour period). Until someone fires up Netflix, everyone gets along just fine. Unfortunately one Netflix user can slow things down for everyone. There are techniques to mitigate this. On my street network I would just mention it at the next street BBQ, or send an email to the person if I could work out who it was. (Football season leads to major slowdowns on the street now…). This is less and less of a problem as home internet connections get faster and faster.

    ==== What equipment should I use? ====

    This is tricky. The capabilities of WiFi tend to be vastly overestimated. MMM’s case is a perfect example. You put it up, it seems to work … but afterwards its not quite right. There are a lot of variables, and power is only one of them. Its hard to put together a useful guide in a comment, but here are some guidelines that might help:

    + for best results with non-exotic equipment, you need to be able to see along the entire link with no obstacles. Trees get water on them and the signal fades – so that link you setup in winter may stop working in summer. Height is a good thing here generally.
    + if there’s already a lot of WiFi around, it gets MUCH harder. Esp if there are strong access points along the line of the link. Microwave ovens also kill signals. As do certain cordless phones. As do various gadgets that do things like share a cable box with a TV in another room.
    + setting up the semi-exotic gear (such as MMM purchased) can be extremely challenging if you don’t understand computer networking. (Otoh, if you do understand things like DHCP, static IP, gateway, NAT, you may find it quite easy).

    A simple scenario is the following: two houses side by side.

    Buy an off the shelf WiFi router from BestBuy / Amazon that has a “guest network” feature (most modern ones do). Put it in a window facing the other house, though try to keep it out of direct sunlight to avoid overheating. With many housing materials, this will be sufficient to provide internet to laptop users in both houses. If not, add a “repeater” to the neighbor’s house, placing it in a window opposite yours. Ideally, both WiFi routers should be identical, so you may want to look for one that supports multiple modes to start with. Have your neighbors use the “guest” network and then you don’t have to worry about security of your computers etc.

    Next level up: a set of closely spaced houses / mesh network

    Unless you’re prepared to geek out, something like this will be simplest for anything other than a really simple scenario: http://www.meraki.com/products/wireless/od2. We switched to using this gear exclusively for our community networks (and my street network), and everything became SO MUCH SIMPLER!! Almost all the configuration is done via a web browser logged into a website – the radios pick up the settings from there based on their serial number after they’re connected to the internet.

    In brief, you configure these at the Meraki website, set them up, indoors or outdoors, and plug them in. Plug one into an internet connection and position the others so they have line-of-sight to at least one other radio. Optionally plug a computer into them as well to provide internet to that computer. Magic happens after that. The radios find each other, mesh together, and automatically adjust routes etc for optimal performance – and also provide a local hotspot. You can geek out a bit with these and add antennas to improve the performance. Any antenna with a matching connector is fine – no need to buy those from Meraki.

    Meraki as a company has “gone enterprise” and you may have to actually talk to person to buy these directly. Alternatively, keep an eye out on Ebay for them (and their older smaller indoor only siblings). Meraki also started charging for the web interface, but last I checked they still have a free “community edition” that skips some features (like blocking Netflix or file sharing programs), but is way more than adequate.

    There are non-Meraki “mesh network” alternatives out there that are cheaper and perhaps just as effective. I haven’t kept up with it over the past couple of years. My guess is they also work, but have some rough edges. E.g. setup may not be as easy, and you may need to power cycle the radios occasionally if things slow down or get hung. (We used to put problem radios on a cheap mechanical timer so they would turn on and off at 3am every day).

    ==== In Conclusion ====

    I hope this helps! The technology aspects can be daunting at times, but if you’re working together it can be a lot of fun. Don’t drop the 2nd connection until you’ve run them in parallel for at least 2-4 weeks. It can take a while for interference issues to show up.

    Reply
  • Keith Morgan August 31, 2012, 11:52 am

    To Hell with the cable companies. Use a WiFi signal. Install XBMC, do some reading. It takes a bit to configure the first time. Jailbreak you Apple TV.

    You will have more channels than the cable company sells. But all for FREE,,,,

    I am more than willing to walk anyone interested through the process. God knows I had zero help when I decided to take this step.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache August 31, 2012, 1:04 pm

      Sounds fun, Keith! If you’d be willing, you should start a forum topic in the “share your badassity” category to describe how this is done.

      Judging by the success of the forum thread about alternatives to expensive cell phone plans, I think it could be a hit.

      Reply
  • Terry Gllett December 21, 2012, 4:43 am

    Enjoyed the article.

    You may be interested in the VillageTelco project which has similar aims for use in developing countries, but is applicable anywhere. It includes both a telephony service and Internet sharing.

    We use standard low cost routers including many of the TP Link models, and flash them with OpenWrt firmware and BATMAN-adv mesh software to allow many devices in neighbouring residences to form a resilient mesh that can share one or more Internet connections.

    We also have a purpose built router (the Mesh Potato) which includes a telephony circuit that allows the use of ordinary telephones on the network.

    Simplicity of installation and operation is a primary design goal.
    All the software is Open Source and free to use.

    Hope this may be of some use.

    Reply
  • Segmond January 20, 2013, 8:25 pm

    I thought I was the only one who hated comcast, there really must be something about being frugal and hating comcast, they both seem to go hand in hand.

    Reply
    • Three Wolf Moon January 20, 2014, 8:19 am

      No need to be frugal to hate Comcast – many of my big spender friends get totally pissed at them when they can’t provide even basic levels of service to their customers that pay them over $2000 a year!

      Reply
  • William February 13, 2013, 11:56 am

    Thinking I may be able to access WiFi from a winery about a mile away with this system. Or just link up two homes on our property.

    Does the Ethernet cable plug directly into the antenna or does it need an adapter?

    Does the other end simply plug into a router or directly
    into the computer ethernet port?

    Reply
    • William July 22, 2013, 8:41 am

      With my system, I use the bullet between the antenna and the router input. The bullet uses a P.O.E. (power supply), the Ethernet cables connect to it, one to the the bullet (antenna amp) and the other to the router.

      Reply
  • Heather A February 17, 2013, 5:56 am

    I just got hit with at $52 increase per month by Charter. Yes that was FIVE-TWO!!! No change in services, no additional anything. The market is suppose to be monopoly-free, but how can that be when competing services for cable just aren’t comparable services. Plus the only services available in my area are Charter or dial-up, and maybe Direct TV if you can get it to work with all of our tree coverage and exposed rock ledge peaks. GRRRRRRR!

    Reply
  • thepotatohead May 13, 2013, 7:43 pm

    MMM, I too hate Comcast with a passion. The straw that broke the camels back was when they decided to charge for the “free” digital adapters we all got with the switch from analog to digital tv. So I finally flipped them the bird and canceled my cable tv and couldn’t be happier. Sadly, I still am stuck with them for internet. Working on rectifying that….God how I hate Comcast lol

    Reply
    • Ben Bates December 31, 2013, 4:21 pm

      I am in the exact same boat. Did you find any good alternative?

      Reply
  • Rick Hamric July 21, 2013, 12:05 am

    Not sure if I can still reply to the Internet sharing using a dish?

    Does anyone know if the technology/equipment/prices have changed since this article was written??? Cheaper/better/easier hopefully?

    I have plenty of close neighbors and just yesterday dropped My Verizon Fios Internet [ONLY Internet] 15/5 unlimited data. I have negotiated with them numerous times in the past and have been paying 50 bucks per month for the past 2 years They now insist they need 70, so I told them to take a hike and had them terminate service yesterday. They have not come crawling back to me. YET. But I expect them to as I have been with them for 5 years.

    I could “tolerate” the 50 a month but they must be nuts if they think I am going to pay 70.

    Reply
  • Eric July 24, 2013, 10:38 pm

    Or simply run a coax to the house next door.

    Reply
  • Ray July 25, 2013, 10:45 pm

    If you can get several next-door neighbors you should be able to achieve the same without the big antenna. You just need wireless access points that are capable of repeating the signal (we are probably not talking your consumer-grade wireless here…look at a real computer store or online from a place that sells business equipment).

    Wireless Access Point (house a) — Wireless Access Point (house b) — Wireless Router / Comcast (house c) — Wireless Access Point (house d) — Wireless Access Point (house e).

    Note there is a limit to the number of “hops” that can be set up this way. Each wireless access point is a hop.

    Reply
  • Ted July 26, 2013, 10:42 pm

    Hello,
    Well, thank you for this post, really interesting. I just have three small questions, the wireless you used is supposed to be 802.11g/b, however the standard 802.11n is faster right?
    My questions being:
    1.- Wouldn’t it be better to buy one wireless access point that uses the 802.11n standard rather than the g?
    2.- I looked up (really quickly) and the ones that I found using those standards, but the price is almost twice the price of the one suggested by you and the distance is reduced to 5Km (while the TP-Link says is 15Km).
    3.- There are like 4 coffee shops near my home that have free wireless, would I be able to pick those signals up if I put this wireless access point in my home?

    Thank you so much.

    Regards

    Reply
  • Matt S July 29, 2013, 5:41 pm

    Comcast’s scumbaggery is legendary, people quickly learn the truth about them and find alternatives. I wouldn’t go back to them EVEN IF IT WAS FREE.

    I had cancelled their service, they continued to bill me for a couple months after. When they refused to credit my cc, I filed a chargeback and got a credit. Instead of speaking with me about the prorated amount honestly due to them, that I would have happily paid – they sent the amount directly into a collections company.

    Seriously? They still bombard my mailbox with advertisements that I happily burn.

    Reply
  • Ron August 11, 2013, 10:48 am

    I’m not sure if it’s been mentioned in the comments, I just kind of skimmed through the final third or so.
    In the first picture of the antenna you correctly figured out that the feed portion of the antenna was oriented incorrectly in regards to the reflector. I noticed though, in the final solution picture, that the antenna/reflector combo is mounted so that the signal is horizontally polarized. Maybe that was on purpose and the remote antenna is also horizontally polarized, which is actually pretty smart considering that the vast majority of wifi antennas are vertically polarized, but if not and the remote antenna is oriented vertically then you have around a 20db loss in signal strength due to the cross polarity of the signal. Just thought I’d mention it. Came across this blog researching wifi antennas. ;-)

    Reply
  • Dan September 26, 2013, 8:43 pm

    This is great, nothing like fighting the ‘power’. I’m in MA where there isn’t to much choice between internet providers and Charter is the primary. I lived in an apartment where I knew the neighbors above, across the hall and below me. We came to an agreement to split the internet 4 ways, I purchased a newer, faster wireless router and cut the bill x4. Paying 15/month is much better than 60

    Reply
  • Jamie Fristrom October 24, 2013, 9:56 am

    Wow, I just quit Comcast two days ago to get in bed with the other available devil, CenturyLink, and am feeling pretty good about it now.

    “Secondly, we do NOT give a shit what the fake price is “for the first six months”.”

    You can almost always call Comcast after the first six months, threaten to quit, and get them to find a ‘new promotion’ to sign you up on. My conclusion? The first six month price is the Real Price. It’s the “let’s see if they’re too lazy to not pay us” price that comes after that is the Fake price. Like with coupons – they still make a profit if you clip coupons. The no-coupon price is a fake tax on our laziness. As I sign up with CenturyLink they even said, “Be sure to call us in twelve months so we can find another promotion for you.” (So much more annoying than coupons though.)

    Reply
  • Jeff December 11, 2013, 7:30 pm

    I’m on the 6th floor of a condo that is caddy corner to a Starbucks. According to Pythagoras and a few distance estimates, I am less than 500 feet from it (I suck at distance estimates so it might even be less than 300). And it is a clear shot. My laptop cannot pick up the signal from here so what do I need? Yes, I’ve read the blog, but need details for my situation if someone knows how to rig it. Help me cut my internet bill!

    Reply
  • Tara Zee January 15, 2014, 2:20 pm

    My dad has a younger cousin who lived in a rural area in PA where companies refused to deliver high speed internet. Because he had enough neighbors, he decided to buy a T-1 line and did something similar to what you describe to sell to a couple neighbors in town (it was over 10 people). I don’t know how legal that was either but if you have no option for high speed internet, you do what you gotta do!

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache January 15, 2014, 6:46 pm

      Nice!

      Ahh, the “T-1 line”.. I remember that, when we talked about 1.5Mbit/s as if it were an enormous amount of speed, and companies would rent those lines for $1000/month. Now my city offers one THOUSAND megabit per second fiber optic connections (equal to 666 T-1 lines) for $49/month.

      Reply
  • M February 2, 2014, 11:21 pm

    My neighbor 4 doors down and I easily set-up wifi sharing between our two houses using the Ubiquiti Nanostation Loco – a tiny little magic box. It doesn’t even have direct line of sight and we’re still pulling 15 MB/s over 250 ft with trees and a small building in the way. $50 x 2 and we’ve cut our bills in half. (BTW, it turns out Comcast is charging me $21/month more for a slower speed than he has…and they raised my bill 40% in one year. Bye bye.) http://www.ubnt.com/nanostationloco

    Reply
  • OptimusStache February 13, 2014, 1:29 pm

    This just scares me now because Comcast is trying to buy Time Warner Cable. I have NO LOVE for TWC, believe me. But it is the only viable internet provider right now (and I love me my W@H days). TWC already gives bad enough service, I can’t imagine what Comcast will do. (I know what they did to this person: http://koritelling.blogspot.com/2014/01/an-open-letter-to-comcastxfinity.html )

    I called TWC (before I started reading this blog) after I cut the cable tv and told them I wanted the promotional cost they were currently offering and it cut my budget by 20$/month (for the next year). You have to keep watching those costs! They keep slipping in the increases.

    Reply
  • Christian Clark February 13, 2014, 7:59 pm

    Considering the news about Comcast becoming an ISP monopoly by buying out Time Warner, and have made it clear they can stand to lose 3 million customers, I consider this article more essential than ever.

    Reply
  • SU March 10, 2014, 2:49 am

    This story gives an interesting look behind the scenes of the US’s internet companies – and could give MMM some useful talking points next time he’s taking down Comcast: http://www.npr.org/blogs/alltechconsidered/2014/02/06/272480919/when-it-comes-to-high-speed-internet-u-s-falling-way-behind

    Reply
  • DVStv August 15, 2014, 1:00 pm

    The FCC sets maximum power limits for wireless network transmitters. As the gain of an antenna increases above 6dBi, the power level must be decreased a corresponding amount. The intent is to limit the distance which the wireless link can cover to prevent interference to other users. The rules are a bit trciky to interpret without some background in electronics but 600 mW is too much power for a 24dBi antenna. My back of the envelope calculation says that 250 mW is the max allowed for one antenna, although that doesn’t account for cable losses. If there are multiple antennas on an access point then the limits are even lower.

    So what is the advantage of high gain antennas if the power must be reduced to use them? For receiving. The narrow focus of the antenna is more immune to interference from other noise sources that share the same frequency spectrum. This increases range somewhat but it really helps increase throughput.

    Another unlikely issue that could crop is that other licensed users including ham radio operators have priority access to the range of spectrum that wireless networks use. If a neighborhood network interferes with those users then you would be required to take what ever steps are necessary to eliminate the interference.

    Reply
  • osage August 27, 2014, 2:17 pm

    I use NetZero
    Totally WiFi
    Faster by far than Comcast
    $22.50/mth (inlcuding fees, etc.) every month
    I have comcast for TV only and I’m ready to give them the boot. Their programming is poor. I want TV to teach me something. I can get what I like to watch on the internet. WHEN I want to watch it.

    Reply
  • Andy September 24, 2014, 1:54 pm

    Great article! Would you be able to tell me which model of TP-Link access point you ended up going with? I also live in a suburban area with about 400 feet, a few trees, and about 5 houses between me and my target with plenty of neighbors that have their own Wi-Fi networks. I was thinking that the 2.4 Ghz model would make sense as it’s best for range, but apparently 5.0 Ghz is less likely to conflict with neighboring networks. Do you have any guesses as to which would work better?

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache September 24, 2014, 7:34 pm

      Mine is the 2.4gHz – and since this article it has been used in a few additional sharing situations with good results. (I have moved to a new place since writing this and now have non-shared Internet – for now! :-))

      Reply

Leave a Reply

To keep things non-promotional, please use a real name or nickname
(not Blogger @ My Blog Name)

The most useful comments are those written with the goal of learning from or helping out other readers – after reading the whole article and all the earlier comments. Complaints and insults generally won’t make the cut here, but by all means write them on your own blog!

connect

welcome new readers

Take a look around. If you think you are hardcore enough to handle Maximum Mustache, feel free to start at the first article and read your way up to the present using the links at the bottom of each article.

For more casual sampling, have a look at this complete list of all posts since the beginning of time. Go ahead and click on any titles that intrigue you, and I hope to see you around here more often.

Love, Mr. Money Mustache

Ads

$25 Unlimited Smartphone
The Lending Club Experiment
A $500 Signing Bonus... WTF?
How to Start a Blog

latest tweets