Re: Shared Internet [ was Revisiting single metering
From: Chris Poch (
Date: Mon, 11 Jan 2016 07:43:39 -0800 (PST)
I think what makes sense in terms of utility metering depends largely on if
you pay by use or pay for service. For example, electricity service is pay
by use - if I use a lot of power, I pay a lot and if I barely use power, I
pay a little. Contrast that to internet service, which today is generally
pay for service - I pay for a certain speed of connection and pay the same
price whether all I do is email or if I stream movies continuously.

I prefer things billed on consumption to be individually metered because it
encourages better responsibility. People are more likely to be careful with
their use when they see a consequence for not being careful. My sister
lived in a high rise where the tenants paid the utilities based on a
formula of unit size and number of occupants. There was no incentive to
conserve because with hundreds of units in the building, there was no
measurable difference in what she paid based on her lifestyle choices - it
encouraged unneeded consumption. I've had friends who rented out rooms in
their houses for fixed prices (everything included) and some who also
charged for utilities. The tenants who were also paying utilities were more
responsible. The ones who didn't pay did wasteful things like set the air
conditioning (not heat) to 60F/15C in the winter because they were "a
little warm" or run a shower on the hottest setting for hours to steam a
wrinkled garment. I've never had problems getting tenants who were paying
utilities to agree to a reasonable thermostat setting or to turn off lights
they're not using. I can't imagine how some of these debates would play out
across 20+ units if bills came back higher than expected.

The big exception I'd make is for lightly used utilities. For example, if
your community has geothermal HVAC (all electric) but has gas water heaters
in each unit (and nothing else using gas). During the summer, I pay on
average $17 for my gas bill, which in the summer is essentially just water
heating. $15 of that bill is charges for being a customer and fixed rate
taxes so my use is only $2. It would be much cheaper to share that service
with my neighbors, even if they used significantly more than me, so we
could split the overhead cost of being a customer. I would take this
approach for utilities where the fees were very high relative to cost of

At least for electricity, you can get non-utility provided submeters
installed. The utility would read the "big meter" and charge the community
based on it. The individual meters can be used to split the bill based on
actual use. I've seen this system in apartment complexes and also in
offices where tenants paid for electricity for certain things such as 24
hour air conditioning of a server room but the building provided most of
the electricity to tenants. Just be careful that in some areas, getting
electric service this way will make you a commercial customer. When I lived
in southwest Virginia, commercial customers paid rates that were higher
than the home service rates. It's something worth exploring before making a
decision because a higher or lower rate could end up being the deciding

On Mon, Jan 11, 2016 at 9:49 AM Sharon Villines <sharon [at]>

> > On Jan 10, 2016, at 5:32 PM, Linda Haas <lindahaas88 [at]> wrote:
> >
> > We are also trying find a way to share costs of internet.
> We had internet geeks in 1999 when we designed the system. We installed
> wall plugs with connections for cable, telephone, and ethernet in almost
> every room — meaning 4-5 outlets per unit. It’s a building wide system.
> This means we also have an intranet which people use to share computers,
> the printer in the office, music, and back up drives.
> That has worked very well except the configuration in the basement that
> tied all the internet connections to a modem. I don’t understand that
> configuration but it took years to get it working in a trustworthy manner.
> This has finally been accomplished in the last 2-3 years. It still goes out
> periodically, but we have software that the geeks use on their own
> computers to restart the system. And we have started stocking spare routers
> so when one blows, we have one on hand.
> I also recommend routers replaced automatically after an expected life
> span. It is a huge disruption for those who work on the internet not to
> have service until a router arrives in the mail or someone drives out to
> MicroCity to get one. I’ve actually driven out myself and read the labels
> to someone on an iPhone to be told which one to buy. A person who works on
> internet stuff professionally says the best practice is to buy the basic
> reliable workhorse and replace it every year. Next year the basic reliable
> workhorse will have all the bells and whistles the high end router had last
> year, and the bugs will be worked out, and it will be even cheaper.
> So the caution is that universal wiring is good, but attention needs to be
> paid to the design in the basement.
> We have increased capacity over the years. At first we had an account with
> a small local company in a way I don’t know how to describe. They didn’t
> have great service and blamed it on the telephone wires. We went to one RCN
> residential service modem serving all units. Some who wanted more speed had
> their own modems. Only a few used the internet for anything except email.
> Over time people were gaming, watching movies, and everyone was on the web
> at some point almost every day. Friday nights service was very slooooooooow
> because modems theoretically share equally.
> The big leap forward was to business class service. It was much faster and
> we got more attention when we needed service. The business service
> department hires better trained people and provides almost instant
> attention.
> When streaming became all the rage and we had many residents working at
> home, we upped the speed and capacity with two business class modems from
> different companies. Connections roll over from one to the other as demand
> requires. Both companies have never been down at the same time and one
> modem is enough to keep everyone functioning until the first is fixed.
> Then we added wireless connections so everyone can use all their devices
> anywhere in the community. We have a universal password.
> So we have 4-5 connections for each of 43 units and community-wide
> wireless for $3,400 a year. That is $79 dollars a year for fast business
> class service in each unit. It is part of the condo fee which is partially
> based on unit size so larger units pay more and smaller units less.
> As you know, that is what it would cost each of us for one month for the
> same service as individuals. So community wide wiring is totally worth the
> time and effort.  With wireless it is even easier.
> Sharon
> ----
> Sharon Villines
> Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC
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