Category Archives: Uncategorized

Net Neutrality

Yesterday, December 14th, 2017 was a sad day for the internet, as the FCC killed Net Neutrality.  The biggest loser in this are individuals, followed by smaller groups of individuals, and small companies.  The winners are the big corporations, and the larger they are, the bigger they win.

How will this affect the DBIUA, as a member owned ISP?

The good thing is we are already a small group of people who have pooled our resources.  We have over 60 members, and we do everything we can to provide each of our members the fastest connection possible to their home for $35/month.  Depending on where you are in our network, this may range from 5mbps up/down all the way up to 50mbps up/down.  But, we don’t specifically throttle or prioritize traffic in our network.

The other good thing is we have two different network providers now.  Startouch Broadband, and Rockisland Communications.  We have our network gateways setup to split traffic between them.

Luckily both of these providers were willing to provide us a wholesale connection.  But, depending on where you live, and what your options are, even if you can put together a group of people who want to share a wholesale internet connection, you may not be able to find anyone who will provide you that connection as it will be more profitable to deal with individuals directly.

We pay Rockisland about $900/month for our connection that 60 different individuals use.  Rockisland’s normal price for individuals is around $75/month.  If these 60 individuals where direct customers, that would be $4,500/month for them.  The financial incentive for all these ISP’s is NOT to sell wholesale connections, but deal with individuals directly.  Also, when dealing with individuals directly, they can upcharge for better service for those individuals who want it.

Even though we have two network providers, that is not the end of the story, because each of them have to connect to a bigger fish upstream.  Their upstream providers could decide to charge them differently and throttle/prioritize traffic, and then the right thing to do from a business perspective is to pass these costs back onto their customers.  And then we would have to pass that back to our individual members.

The part of this that really bugs me, is the that the organization that should be looking out for the individuals in this country, and making sure they are not getting screwed is our government.  It exists to represent and protect each of us, and it just screwed us all.

 

DBIUA Network Explained

I setup a test network in my garage last weekend, so we could test out some network changes we are going to make.  This was also a great opportunity to try and give those of you interested some more technical details about how we have things setup.

Here is a photo of the setup now on the wall of my garage.  This replicates just about all the different working parts of our network.

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And here is a youtube video explaining things.

EdgePoint Router

The DBIUA has been up and running for about 3 years now, and way back when we decided to use Ubiquity gear in our network for a various reasons, mainly their AirMax M5, M2, and M900 stuff.  We also used the 5 port toughswitch in all our relay point locations.

As time has gone on, Ubiquity has continued to evolve their product line.  And my new favorite product is the EdgePoint Router, specifically the EP-R6.  It is just a little larger than the toughswitch we are using in our relay boxes, but it’s so much more capable than the toughswitch, and will allow us to rework our network to make it much easier to manage.

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We are in process of switching out (ha, ha) all the toughswitches with EdgePoint Routers over the summer and doing some work to simplify our network so we don’t have to program manual routes in all our radio’s.

As part of this change, I’m setting up a test network in my garage to be able to try out the different settings we will need to modify, so we can make sure we don’t accidentally brick a radio that is up in a tree when we do the real updates.

Once I get this network up and running, I will post again here showing the test network, which will give you an idea of all the pieces and parts you need to build out your own network.

No Fee Month!

JUNE 2017
is DBIUA’s first
“NO FEE” MONTH
That’s right. No monthly fees in June! The association has enough money in the bank to pay June’s expenses. And enough in our Reserve Fund to cover any “what-ifs.”
Our expenses so far this year have come in much less than budgeted. The weather, while wet and cold, was a non-event for DBIUA. No major equipment problems. No tree climbs. No downed limbs. Our system just hummed right along.
Our hope is for more non-events. Which will mean additional “No Fee” Months for our members.
For those few of you who mail your payments by check, you won’t receive a June bill from DBIUA, so please DON’T send a payment for June.
 
For those that pay for several months at a time, we will give you a credit on your account.
For members who pay automatically by credit card, you won’t see a June payment to DBIUA.
Congratulations for being a member of such a well run, buttoned-up, lean-and-mean, member-owned, volunteer-operated, local nonprofit Internet provider!

No New Members

In August, the DBIUA board decided to stop accepting new members, and those members who were still on the waiting list, we decided to refund their membership fee and not connect them to the network.

We came to this decision for a couple of reasons.

First, while we have been working on our redundant connection with Rockisland, we learned that they are putting in one of their LTE poles over on Blakely.

You may have seen these around in other locations, like at the Obstruction Pass power station, by their offices in Eastsound, over by the transfer station, and at other locations around the county.

These LTE poles are providing T-Mobile cell service as well as providing fixed LTE wireless internet from Rockisland.

This new pole on Blakely should be able to service all of the people on our waiting list.

The other reason we have decided not to expand our membership is our volunteer labor (mostly me- Chris Sutton), does not have enough time to deal with the existing membership and network, let alone install new members.

This doesn’t mean we will be shutting things down and closing up shop. It just means we will be spending our time keeping the current system running.

Billing System

One thing I have not touched on yet is what we use for billing our members, accounting, etc.

My day job is doing software development (http://smalldognet.com), and one of the products I created is software to run community foundations.  This includes a full blown online fund accounting system, credit card processing, customers, donors, AR, AP, checks, etc, etc.

So, I already had software we could use to keep the books, all I needed to add was an “ISP” module that tracked the different radio’s, determined if a radio was backbone equipment, or member equipment.

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The DBIUA Network module keeps track of everything, helps with the programming of the radio’s, and also feeds the nagios monitoring system.  When we add someone new to the DBIUA Network module, this automatically gets pushed out to nagios.

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This system tracks the location of everything as well (latitude/longitude), and so we can also spit out a physical map of the network and how everything is connected.

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The best part of this is really the automatic billing each month.  My software is already setup to integrate with Stripe payment processing (http://stripe.com), and so we have a page where members can login, and give us a credit card.  This is not saved in our system, but instead is saved over at Stripe.  At the first of each month, I press a button that automatically creates invoices for everyone.  Then another button charges everyones credit card using the data saved at Stripe.

I’m sure some of you are thinking, this would be really cool to use for your own WISP.  Maybe you are using Quickbooks or something and your monthly billing is a total PITA.  For now, you will have to continue to suffer, but maybe in the future I will figure out how to make this available to others as well, but right now it is very DBIUA centric.

 

Line Loss

In my prior post, I talked about troubleshooting power issues.  And this past week we had another problem with out system that turned out to be power related again.

At our relay points, one of the difficulties is figuring out where the closest AC power is, and how to get from there to where we need our radios to live.  Generally this distance is not very far.  But in a couple cases it’s a long ways, like with the relay point in the middle of Tom’s field.  In this case we trenched the 120v AC power all the way to the relay point.

In another case over at Jim Nelson’s point, we had to run 200 feet from the closest house, out to a tree on a point, and instead of bringing 120v AC out to the tree, we ran the power over POE the 200′.

At first we only had 2 radios at this relay point, and everything worked really well.  Eventually we added a 3rd radio, and most recently we added a webcam.  Adding the webcam pushed everything over the edge and suddenly everything at that relay point was rebooting over and over and over.  WTF?

Well, there is this thing call line loss, when transmitting power over certain distances.  Here is a great little webpage and helps you with those calculations.

http://www.calculator.net/voltage-drop-calculator.html

So, we are transmissiong 24v DC power, 200′, and we are using Ubiquity Carrier Class ethernet cable, which has 24 AWG wire.  And POE uses 2 pairs to carry the power.

The last thing we need to fill in is amps.  When we had 2 radios, each using 8 watts, that means about 0.4 amps (8 watts/24 volts) per radio.

Plugging all this into our calculator shows we end up with just short of 20 volts at our radios.

Adding the 3rd radio (and amps up to 1.2), we fall to just shy of 18 volts, and adding the webcam we are under 16 volts, at which point things obviously started failing, probably the touchswitch that all this was plugged into.

So, our solution was to turn off the webcam to get everything running again, and then to order a bunch of 12/2 outdoor landscape lighting cable, and use that to bring the 24v power out to the relay point.  Plugging in 12 AWG wire into our calculator across 200′ and 2.5 amps (the max the power supply will put out), gives us 22 volts at the relay point.

So, if you are running more then a couple of radios across a long distance POE link, you really need to do something different for power because that tiny 24 AWG wire just doesn’t cut it for high power needs.