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Ask Slashdot: What is the best way to become a rural ISP?

hawkeyeMI (412577) writes | about a year and a half ago

The Internet 1

hawkeyeMI writes "I live in a small, rural town nestled in some low hills. Our town has access to only one DSL provider, and it's pretty terrible. However, a regional fiber project is just being completed, and some of the fiber is in fact running directly past my house.

Currently, there are no last-mile providers in my area, and the regional project only considers itself a middle-mile provider, and will only provide service to last-mile providers. Assuming this will not be my day job, that the local populace is rather poor, and that because of the hills, line-of-sight service will be difficult, how could I set myself up as an ISP? I have considered WiFi mesh networking, and even running wires on the power/telephone polls, but the required licensing and other issues are foreign to me. What would you do?"

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WISP is only real option (1)

wvnet (2018102) | about a year and a half ago | (#41904085)

I'd go fixed-wireless. It's the only option that you can start on a shoestring and end up with a decent business. Tapping the fiber can get quite expensive. It probably goes through the local telephone Central Office, so your best bet is to find cheap office rental as close to the CO as possible, and then contact the middle-mile provider for a quote to run you a drop. Bonus if you can rent a space in a muti-story building and arrange roof rights for a few antennas.

Ubiquiti wireless gear is the way to go right now, and there's lots of technical help on their forum and others. Their 900Mhz gear will handle SOME tree coverage, as will the 2.4Ghz. Their gear is so cheap that you can afford to make little house-to-house relays to get into hard to reach spots. Their wiki has a decent write-up of how to build a WISP with their gear.
http://wiki.ubnt.com/Building_a_wisp [ubnt.com]

There are lots of other gotchas in the biz, arranging tower sites (private landowners are good, but you'll need a solid contract), getting customers to actually pay you (at all, not just on time), each install is going to have to be paid for up front ($150-200) and you won't make any money off that customer for about 6-8 months, service truck & tools, insurance (wispinsurance.com) and lots more.
Go lurk on the Ubiquiti and Mikrotik forums for a few months, and you'll start getting a clear picture of what running a small ISP day-to-day is like.
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