Re: Ethernet and intra-networking for cohousing communities
From: Raines Cohen (
Date: Tue, 5 Jun 2001 12:18:01 -0600 (MDT)
Joelyn Malone <minnmal [at]> wrote on 6/5/01 10:01 AM:

>I think I read that Old Oakland chousing shares one internet
>subscription among  the whole group, and saves money that way.

We sure do. We paid a few hundred extra per unit in our initial purchase 
prices to get the whole place wired the right way, with lots of extra 
capacity in the lines. We saved $ by doing the finishing work ourselves - 
probably spent around $1k altogether for hubs and routers and tools and 
tester and jacks in multiple places in several units, but it could be 
done for less. 

We pay for a slightly-better-than-low-end DSL connection from our phone 
co (PacBell), costing $79 per month. As far as they're concerned, we have 
one computer attached... our router. It shares the connection with all 20 
units, all of which have net-connected computers... continuously on... 
the amount per unit is so small (<$5/mo.) we just lump it into our HOA 
budget and dues rather than worrying about metering, billing, etc.

Because any given web page takes only a second or two to load, the chance 
of us "bumping into" one another and slowing each other down is slim... 
and when we do, the limiting factor is usually the server, not our 
connection, so we rarely notice any effect.

The CH is also wired (basically, everywhere there's a phone jack there's 
also a net jack, or the ability to add one) and we've taken advantage of 
that a couple of times to do presentations or demos there using the 

> Are you
>all connected by Ethernet that you put in yourselves?

We had the phone wirers put it in the walls during construction, we just 
finished it off. In the process we learned a lot about how to do it 
efficiently and taught each other, had some work parties. It helped that 
I'm a consultant with some experience in this area (I got my wiring 
training from doing "NetDay" school installations a coupl'a years back), 
and that the son of one of our members is a professional DSL installer, 
and another runs a technology-assistance nonprofit.

>  Or some other

We also invested in an Apple "Airport base station" (aka 802.11b hub, or 
Wi-Fi connection) plus antenna that lets those of us with 
wireless-equipped laptops (4 households already, 3 more expected shortly) 
to log on without plugging in from the CH, garden, or walk. The plan is 
to eventually boost it up so we can access it from the brewpub across the 
street or nearby restaurants. When the base station broke just out of 
warranty, we were able to use one household's computer as a "software 
base station" replacement for it because it's a new iMac (introduced 
since summer 2000) and has the card slot for it built in... All G4 Macs 
have this, too.

>Is the ISP subscription a business one, or simply a
>household one? 

It's residential service on my line... but not the cheapest, lowest 
level, so we have 5 dedicated IP addresses so we can put servers in house 
(we haven't gotten to this part yet).

>And does the company know you are sharing it with many

No, nor do they care. They're providing the service (connectivity, at a 
specified speed which implies a specified amount of data flowing through 
the pipe), and we're paying for it, and we don't call them for support 
with it. The bill shows up on my phone bill and I submit it to the HOA 
for reimbursement or credit on my dues.

> We have some interest in doing something like this at
>Monterey Cohousing - maybe sharing among a few families, but are not
>sure either about the practicality or the ethics, so I'd love to hear
>about other communities' experiences.

It's legal and ethical and easy and fun! Having a high-speed "always-on" 
connection really does change the way you use the net. Plus, it saved 
several people the cost of second phone lines, kept their lines from 
being tied up and busy, made it easier/cheaper to do home offices, and 
saved people the cost of individual ISP's... WE are their ISP! It helps 
that I had a mail server already that I could use to create individual 
e-mail addresses at our domain.

I'll be doing some kind of presentation or birds-of-a-feather gathering 
on this topic at the North American Cohousing Conference this July... and 
working on an article for the Cohousing Journal. I'm also available for 
consultation for communities that want to fly me in and put me up to help 
them put in a net (once they have gotten consensus and laid the 


Raines Cohen <coho-L [at]> <>
Out to shake the bushes for flower petals for a memorial.

  Vice President, Swan's Market Cohousing [Old Oakland, CA]
Where a fountain is going in the public courtyard today!

  Member, East Bay Cohousing [no site yet] <>
Where members are meeting this week to plot & plan.

  Boardmember, The Cohousing Network <>
Noting that you can still get 'earlybird' rates for the
North American Cohousing Conference, July 20-22, Berkeley, CA.

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