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Sherman Hill Internet

My Internet sucks.

Well, it’s not that bad. But it’s not great either. I can only buy up to 80Mbps, and have a monthly data cap of 400GB per month. I hit the cap every month.

This is by design. Because Mediacom is the only cable provider in the area, the service they provide must be just poor enough and just expensive enough to maximize the profit of the company while avoiding attempts at competition. While I cannot begrudge them for this (that’s the system in place currently), I don’t have to like it. I want to do something about it.

There are two main solutions here.

Attract Competition

The phone provider in the area is CenturyLink. They offer DSL Internet access in the area. The drawback is that DSL is much much slower (12Mbps at my address). However, they have started to roll out fiber Internet to areas around the city (including someone I know).

A networking expert recommended that I speak with a local representative to find out what plans they might have for the area. If they already have it planned, then I have nothing to do but wait. If they have no plans, then I must try to push them. That means getting a not unsubstantial proportion of the neighborhood to sign a petition to CenturyLink to run fiber.

This would be the easiest solution. By showing CenturyLink that there is a market here, they could be incentivized to provide the service that I (and my neighbors assumedly) want. However, it’s not an ideal solution in my opinion. Us the customers will still be paying for the profits of CenturyLink at the expense of service quality and higher prices.

Be the Competition (aka “seize the means of connection”)

I don’t have nearly enough money to install fiber myself. But collectively, the residents of the neighborhood do. A minimal amount of research finds that the cost to lay fiber for the entire 11km of streets in the neighborhood would be about $250,000. I’ll post more later on the findings of my to-date and future research on the topic of cost.

A plausible approach would be to get everyone in the neighborhood (or at least a substantial percentage) to pay into and found a Consumer’s co-operative local ISP. This means that the company is owned by the subscribers, and is incentivized to provide the best service at the lowest cost.

This isn’t a new idea. Credit unions work similar to this, and the sporting equipment store REI is a consumer’s co-op.

It’s not even a new idea within the world of ISPs. There are plenty of examples around of communities that have accomplished this exact thing. However according to my research, this happens almost exclusively in rural areas where high speed Internet isn’t available at all.

This would not be an easy project by any means. But I have the time (and a bit of knowledge) to apply to finding out how doable this might be, and track down the people who know how to execute. I will continue to post not only about cost research, but about what accomplishing this might look like holistically.

Next Steps

My first, easiest step is to try to talk to CenturyLink about their plans for the area. No matter what, it would be useful to know what their intentions are.

No matter what, I need to build a community around this idea. More people than just me need to be interested bringing in an alternative, be that via petition to existing ISPs, or by founding a new one. Fortunately, there is a neighborhood association here that has a mailing list and a fair number of members. I attended the quarterly meeting this week to get a feel for it, and it they seemed like they could possibly be receptive to a projct like this.

I will continue to post updates here.

Next: Smart Plug Prototype 2.0

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