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I want to start an ISP

I am so fricking tired of having Comcast be the only viable option in my area. Also AT&T’s service exists here as well; but some of it is FIber, some is VDSL, and the rest is questionable. In my state, it is also illegal for a municipality to start their own ISP service as of a few years ago. The law, thankfully, doesn’t outlaw pre-existing municipality sponsored ISPs. And there is also a loophole that one could use to start the ISP via a municipality. But, my local government won’t even allow their systems to be upgraded - they’d rather pay the ransom, and that they did. That being said, I kinda don’t want to move. This is where I have lived all my life, and it is where my entire family lives. So if I were to move, I’d be far away from everyone and the only one who has done so. At any rate, I could move to a bigger city like Huntsville, AL or Birmingham, AL; yet that’s not compelling when I consider the cost of living in another place. Besides, I feel that me making an ISP business would be good for the economic growth of my local area.

We should consider there being about 300,000 people who can potentially use this service. Ideally, I want it to be 100% fiber optic. My ideal situation is to charge a $200 installation fee, $80/month for gigabit internet, $50/month for half that, and $25/month for half that yet again. I’d also like to offer a premium DNS service that customers can sign up for as an additional benefit. Their regular DNS would be DoT and DoH; but for the premium they can also use Pi Hole tweaks. (This is the same model as https://nextdns.io, but only as an addon for pre-existing customers). I would push privacy benefits as well as speed and price to performance compared to Comcast (which is a privacy nightmare - I have to opt-out of targeted ads from my ISP along with some other nusiances). Currently the way this lines up with prices, at least the prices in my neighborhood if not the entire area, is that I pay $50/month for 200/10 cable (ugh) internet… and I am actually supposed to pay $70/month but I am a good negotiator. :smiley: Oh yeah, finally i do want to impose a data cap. The main reason for this however, is not to eke every cent out of people, but rather as a safeguard since I am not monitoring what people do. I want a soft datacap of 3.5TB (and I am open to increasing that if others think I should); this soft datacap means here that instead of charging an overage fee, I’d just slow down their service to 25/25, for example. By comparison, Comcast has a 1.2TB datacap unless you pay $25/month extra for unlimited if you have their gateway; if you own your own modem, then you have to pay $30/month extra. My greatest worry is getting in trouble with my local law enforcement in the event that someone they’re after used my service to do illegal things. Maybe someone has a solution that I can use while still keeping the privacy benefits.

Anyway, the main reason I am starting this thread is because I need to know what hardware I should use. I know that I can get a dedicated uplink circuit from AT&T for [currently] $1600/month. They give me so much speed on that dedicated circuit and I am free to use it however I please provided it is within the terms of the contract (what I mean there is that they don’t penalize me or cut me off if I start to use a lot of data because I am reselling it or something). If I use two or more circuits, that price actually becomes wholesale. I also need to choose another company or two to be a redundant uplink. That being said, AT&T’s uplink (and presumably, the other uplink(s)) will be 100% fiber to my building. Then I need to set up the infrastructure for the inside. Could I just use a bunch of BSD or Linux routers or is there like dedicated hardware that I need to buy?

Also, I am currently only in the planning stages of the company. I haven’t invested much into it except for thought, research, and a couple of domains. I live in the Muscle Shoals area of Alabama which also consists of Franklin County as well as the counties listed in that Wikipedia article. Because of this I think I am gonna name the company The Shoals Connection, LLC. I kinda like that name, but if anyone else feels different please share your idea. As a result of this naming decision, I actually bought the domain names: theshoalsconnection.net and shoalsarea-inter.net (I really like that domain hack).

Finally, I forgot to mention cost. My idea of the cost is to have as close to a million dollars as I can. I have several ideas of what I can do to reach this goal. This includes also seeking help from The Shoals Area Chamber of Commerce, which actually offers loans and grants to local business startups if they think your idea is wonderful and actually viable. Finally, I can also proably just get a business mortgage for the real estate that I am gonna need. If I choose wisely, it isn’t too expensive to buy this in my area. Especially if I can find an area that isn’t as appealing due to its location since I don’t need to bring people in - I want to go to them. Another way that I want to start this is maybe start off doing a little freelance development for local businesses in my area. Once I become established, that can also be a continuing service that my ISP offers.

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Good luck, I hope you have a serious bank roll because roll out is going to be slow and expensive. I would probably start more as a WISP then add fiber as an option later. Would allow you to roll out to more people faster then just fiber to the home.

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Normally i don’t touch ISP type stuff, however you might want to read up on other “wireless ISPs” on DSLReports/BroadbandReports as owners have often wrote about the upsides/downsides of trying or attempting at running fiber to the home and why they went the wireless internet provider route… you will face major ISPs trying to do telco/Comcast style lobbying just like how local muni internet efforts stall/collapse as a group wants more price tiers.

As far as back-end stuff you’ll almost get into the realm of a data center if you want to optimize network performance–Comcast like a few ISPs do caching to shave off data usage to major news sites.

i have some stories about the topic maybe it can help

in the ‘90 when i was a kid internet was booming in Romania but all the ISP dint really give internet, all of them were offering basically huge LAN’s
the ISP were basically few people doing what they could serving the neighborhood and setting peer-exchanges in apartments with other LAN’ to have 100 mb upload/100 download in the city and kb in the real internet

i know many of you wonder whats the point of this, well is all about capital accumulation, at the beginning it was all ghetto then consolidation/mergers happened and today romania offers 1giga for 15USD a month

second story is the https://guifi.net/maps while most of the peers are in catalonia (spain, barcelona) i found ingesting how they used public water pipes to spread fiber and not need to dig holes/trenches

so the fiber goes in the first “manhole” into the PVC water pipe then goes to the second manhole across the pipe, exists and then join again, the same goes for the all the other manholes, those entry and exit points are used to “anchor the fiber” so there are not big distances where the water in the pipe can pull the fiber cable

pic related

European Union in the past have given this project some award

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What do you mean by that?

Your new Overlord Musk demands that you not compete with his Starlink project.

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Simply put: existing telco monopolists do NOT like cheap competitors to exist successfully and will lobby local lawmakers to outlaw your business or preferably business model in order to retain their monopoly. Yes, it has happened in the past, which is why local authorities now cannot start a publicly owned, community ISP anymore… :frowning: (that is, in the US. US laws are NOT applicable outside US borders, much to the chagrin of US telcos and other IP owners :stuck_out_tongue: )

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Think big and double up anything that can not ever fail. So you have two power lines feeding two UPS powering two routers, etc.
Extreme Networks, Arista, Zyxel, etc.

Start with the theory, then look at what hardware (including construction) cost you would face.

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I want to go with solar rather than grid power: https://www.solarwholesale.com/jerryrigeverything

I figure that the cost of being on the grid will be more expensive than going solar, especially as I scale up my infrastructure.

Fair enough, but what’s your fail-safe backup on that? I’d recommend to get at least one grid feed in and perhaps even an automatic diesel gen-set for power failures that will inevitably happen.

Further recommendations:

  • at least do the CDCP course (certified data center professional) to get an idea of what makes a DC tick and how to prevent it failing.
  • there’s a YT channel of a DC in the UK that shows some of their daily workflow as well as explaining their setup. Can’t remember how it’s called, but it’s very enlightening once you’ve seen what it needs to run a DC and the equipment (as well as their costs!) involved.
  • there’s another YT channel of a bearded Canadian guy who runs a brewery as well as selling coffee, he’s explaining DC networking and stuff, very enlightening as well. Sadly, again I can’t remember his name.

Personally, having done the CDCP course myself earlier this year, I’d say it’s really the bare minimum training to have if you want to set up a DC. (I’ve passed with a score of 93%, try beat me there :wink: )

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Good luck! I was working on this case in 2000/2001, after a few years I was just sick of it. And I sold … People, people and people again.

You will only succeed in this business if you are cold-blooded and your only goal is $.

Glorious ida and a warm heart, it will rather lead you to the very bottom.
This business has become ruthless. If you want to create a local small pseudo ISP that will provide internet to no more than three digit numbers of people in your area, maybe you can do it. However, it will be extremely difficult to build a large ISP in an area where there are other ISPs and customers who require quality / speed and low price.

Do you have employees?
Do you have funds?
Do you have the knowledge?
Do you have a location that can be converted to a pseudo datacenter / room?
Are Tier1 ISPs willing to bring their fibers to you or are you able to reach any POP?
Can you afford to be a LIR?
Are you planning to get an ASN?
Can you handle BGP?
What’s your strategy for finishing the last mile with the client’s home / apartment?
Are you planning to implement logging systems so that when the FBI comes, you can identify a specific client?

In addition, a whole chapter of permits and legal scuffles, so a lawyer for the day.

PS
I have the impression that, unfortunately, you have a noble idea and idea for a business, but you lack a technical person / people.
You start with buying domains and mention something about PiHole hmm and at the same time you mention the number 300,000, one doesn’t stick to the other.

Yes, you can start with linux / bsd on the appropriate servers and 10G managed switches as an absolute minimum, you do not necessarily have to buy a Cisco ASR 9000 or something from Juniper right away, because you probably do not have the budget or need for it.

I don’t know what offer AT&T is offering you, but think carefully about it.
An operator grade uplink where you get BGP is not as cheap as some people think. What about SLA? How much are symmetrically guaranteed there and how many within the 95th percentile on the bill.
If you want to have more uplinks than one and make sense of them, read about AS / BGP and apply for your own IP pool from ARIN …

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you will likely have a much easier time doing fiber to the street then wireless down it for most customers. 100/100 or 250/250 can be easily done that way. then anyone who wants say 1/1 or 10/10 can pay a real install fee to get fiber to the node and then they also become a link in point

your prices are too good. 250/250 at 25$ your going to be near cost.
100/100 for 25$ 250/250 40$ 500/500 50-60$
commmon networks is a company who does it like this.

2 videos on how UTOPIA fiber does it


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No. Not anywhere ready to where I need employees.

Working on that. My current strategy is slow and steady. I want to build a nice cash cushion.

For the most part… I am in the planning stages. It is also why I came here: to see if anyone has any advice or can help me fill in the gaps. Also, I know that I am not gonna like doing the tedious business stuff; I’ll only like doing the tech stuff so I will probably outsource that stuff through an assistant or something.

Nope. Not ready for that yet. I still need more funds and more knowledge. Additionally, I would like, if possible, to plant my datacenter out in the county of the town that which I grew up in. If I can get it closer to Florence, I won’t lose as much money on cost. AT&T is the only option there, and since I uplink to them, they will not care at first. Especially since I will move westward into Comcast’s territory rather than AT&T’s territory - at least initially.

Yes. AT&T will sell me a dedicated circuit for about $1600/month right now. As I add more clients, then I will need to add more circuits. I also want to find an additional ISP who can sell me more circuits for redundancy. That price will probably have changed by the time I am ready though.

I do not know what that is.

Maybe, but first I need to find out what that is.

I don’t know. I’ll need to find out what that is first.

Don’t have one yet. There are too many other questions I need to answer first. And I need to be able to answer yes to the funds question. Currently, I want to hire direct rather than contract. I don’t know if you think that will be a bad idea or not. Also I need to do more research about zoning laws and requirements in my area. Remember I have 4 municipalities to figure out and 3 county governments to work with. I also want to come up with a strategy to make it hard for comcast’s lobbying efforts - past, present, and future - to knock me down now that I know about that thanks to you guys here on the forums.

Not really. I’d rather have a different strategy for being able to comply with a subpoena. My whole idea is to also set up DoT and DoH out of the gate with premium [Pi-Hole] features baked in if a customer wishes to pay for them.

I plan on hiring lawyer(s) when I hire a CFO. Already knew that I needed them. CFO will be someone who’s willing to also be the co-founder.

I was planning on having several sources of redundancy as well. Though I don’t really want to go grid unless my municipality pays me money when I generate extra power. If I can figure out zoning, I might be able to simultaneously be considered a power producer. This could also be a nice extra source of revenue. Might even invest money into a solar farm first. I have looked into other forms of energy as well. I think I want to have chemical batteries for long term energy storage to follow the sun cycle. But I worry about their fallability. For short term UPS systems, I already have a plan for that: https://www.activepower.com/en-GB. (They’re based in Europe). If I had a gas powered generator, I am really gonna need efficiency because natural gas is more expensive than electricity here. Finally, for backup during storms I kinda wanted to invest in having a few windmills. I have a lot to think about, and right now I am just exploring options. When I get closer to everything; I will definitely go over and dissect the different costs with a fine tooth comb. :smiley: I know it is somewhat more expensive, but I want to *try and focus on having renewable energy production.

*means there are no guarantees that I will be able to fullfill this goal

Thanks for the pricing advice! I still like those pricing options and would pay for them if I were a customer. (i.e. They are still better than anything we have currently). Also I do not want to do wireless at all. I want FIber. FTTB/FTTH if I can afford it. I might could set up FWAPs to have as an extra service for customers or something. That would have to be an extra subscription though. I wouldn’t make it free to be honest.

wireless does have a purposes especially if you end up dealing with more rural areas. a long range wireless signal can carry 1-2GBPS.

Also, I would like to mention that I have been thinking about doing this for a long time. Eventually I decided that moving would be easier, but I have discovered that lots of other places in the US have similiar a ISP situation that I have in my area. So a few weeks ago, I came back to this idea and started hashing it out again. My biggest hurdle as you can all guess is the cost.

You need to think about hiring at least one technician experienced in network building. Because without help and consultation on hand, it will be really difficult for you to move things forward without delving into technical matters, and this is also a big cost factor.

Building a customer network is not so simple and cheap. Guess why ISP rarely wants to enter new territory if they know there are no big $$$.

Much also depends on your location. Dense buildings such as buildings with apartments or large spaces and free-standing houses. From this, in the first stage of planning, it decides how you will start building the network.
You have to focus much more on the technical aspect because that’s 60% of all the work that awaits you.
Without planning every detail of the network, you will not be able to calculate many costs and development strategies.
Building an ISP is not the same as creating a local coffee shop or a small shop, without the technical aspect you will not move. And after your earlier replies, there are unfortunately missing basic technical aspects that are needed even for a small ISP.

Of course you can make something that is an imitation of an ISP, but in fact it will never be a great ISP.
For this you do not need many connections, expensive professional servers and network equipment. But is there a goal to replicate another weak network …

I don’t know how you want to start planning the core of the network and the first nodes for the clients if you don’t have a primary location where your ISP will be located. This is where it all begins and ends. This is where your hardware and uplinks will be located, and this is where your network’s links will disperse.
I do not know what the legal situation is for you, but there are many places where it is impossible to pull the cable across the street or you have to pay rent for a place in a conduit. Building a client network is not the same as a home LAN. You have to focus more on technical matters because they are a ruthless pair with the rest and you cannot postpone it for the future because they are not important yet. You will stand in a dead end and go to a place with no exit.

But I wish you success as long as it is a real story and not another like @The_Yuchent and his story about oil … :slight_smile:

PS
You give the cost of the uplink but you say nothing about the bandwidth…
Hope you don’t plan too much overbooking your clients. What ratio are you planning, buy 10Gb sell 1Tb?
And for all gods and other spirits … NO for data caps!

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Are you planning to string fiber up on telephone poles, or burying it? Look up pole attachment fees or estimate how much trenching costs. Figure out how much it’s going to cost to run your internet service a quarter mile to just the first customer… You’ll be shocked.

You’ll get a better idea of costs by talking to business ISPs. There, companies commonly pay actual build-out costs. I’ve been quoted $5,000 to run fiber from another customer premises just one block down the street.

IMHO, the smart thing is to get someone else to do it. Some municipalities have gotten around bad laws by building-out networks of just conduit across their territory. From there, small ISPs (with experience and money) are happy to lease the conduits to run fiber and provide service at low prices.

I don’t worry about ISPs much these days. Cellular is replacing wired internet for more and more customers. If traditional ISPs keep it up, the process will just go that much faster.

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the even smarter ones have run large backbones through the city for large businesses and local gov then will sell most of the capacity for ISPs

that cost is what corporations will pay. real cost is maybe 500$ for fiber, 2 transceivers and labor.