According to Bob Dylan, “The times they are a-changing.” I certainly hope so. I’ve made some changes to our broadband service hereabouts, and I’m hopeful about a new alternative. The details of these two things are worth sharing.
I’ve long held that someone in a technology business, who works from a home office full time, should have redundant forms of internet access. If you’re going to have redundant access they should use different modes of connection. That way a single errant truck or backhoe doesn’t take out both of your services.
This belief was strengthened by our own experience in events like Hurricane Ike in 2008. We lost Comcast service for several weeks, falling back to our stodgy old DSL circuit. The DSL meant that we had IP phones running the morning after the storm, when even cellular service was down, amazed and confounded our neighbors.
Our first broadband service to this location was a DSL circuit. The name on the bill changed numerous times. What started out as Sprint Ion devolved into Earthlink, then Covad, Megapath, and most recently Global Capacity. The data rate was slow, but reliability was high.
The loss of cable TV is potentially stressful for Estella, but she’s off to work for the day so it won’t be a problem until this evening. Given my home-office-based work-life the loss of internet access is potentially a show-stopper for me. It’s at times like this that I’m glad we have backup internet access.
My belief is that since your home office network is your network, and under your control, it should actually be more reliable than the network that your office-bound associates a) enjoy or b) suffer. If you operate from a home office on anything more than an occasional basis I think that you should give some serious consideration to maintaining redundant sources of IP connectivity. This is especially true if you rely upon VoIP for your office phones, as we have here for many years.
Redundant IP connectivity can be achieved in a variety of different ways, each with advantages and disadvantages. Performance and price vary widely depending upon the access methods available in your area. For us the best solution has been to use Comcast Business Class cable as our primary internet access, with backup provided by a dry loop DSL circuit from Covad.
It’s important that your two sources of connectivity are different modes of connection, in our case cable & DSL. We could bond a couple of DSL lines and achieve higher speeds, but we’d be susceptible to a single mistake with a backhoe taking out both of our circuits.
I’ve walked down the street, examined the lines and know that the copper goes south down the street while the coax cable goes another direction. No one silly mistake will take them both down.
Timothy B. Lee over at Ars technica has an excellent piece on a pilot project going on in Ottawa, Ontario. A neighborhood is getting fiber installed to their homes at their own expense. Once that’s in place any ISP that wants to sell into that area will simply access a central facility to link to the homes in question. The homeowner owns the famously troublesome last mile. It completely bypasses the ILEC and CableCo.
My reactions to this are many. I certainly hope that the project is successful. Ottawa, while unbearably cold in winter, is a serious high-tech town at heart. I wish someone were that adventurous in the US.
With installation costs per home in the $1000 to $2700 range I don’t mind telling you that I’d jump on this in a heartbeat. It’d be like getting FiOS, but owning the last hop yourself.
In the US I doubt our backward thinking ILECs and CableCos will even notice. I see nothing that suggests they are interested in new ways of approaching the market, even if it could leapfrog them into new opportunities. All they want to do is protect their monopoly positions and find new ways to charge ever more for the same old level of service.
No, this kind of NewThink takes a fresh perspective. Let me state unequivocally, if you build it I will pay.
After several months of thinking about it I finally got around to recording a screencast tutorial about setting up the traffic shaping feature in m0n0wall to accommodate VOIP traffic. Phillip Cooper’s series of screencasts were the inspiration for this. In going though his work (thank you!) it occurred to me that documenting the settings that allow my VOIP systems might be useful to others.
I have a new (ish) Comcast cable modem service here in my office, which gave me a testbed to setup another router and go through the setup process from scratch.
The finished screencast is not online yet. I’ve passed it to the m0n0wall project leads for comment & revision before making it public. It should be available in the next few days.
Well it certainly was a pity that today’s VOIP Users Conference call didn’t happen. Randulo, our host, was just about to start the call when he lost IP connectivity with the world. As such he lost control of the Talkshoe conference bridge. People could call in, but he could not unmute anyone.
Judging from irc channel and the Talkshoe web app there were a number of people trying to be on the call. However, the conference bridge kept us all muted. Too bad.