Re: Shared community internet service
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Tue, 1 Apr 2014 08:03:08 -0700 (PDT)
On Mar 31, 2014, at 11:07 AM, Alan Goldblatt <alanbgoldblatt [at]> 

> Unfortunately, they don't like our sharing scheme, and really want each
> house to purchase its own service (of course).  I'm curious what others
> have done about this.  Do you subscribe to a "business" plan that allows
> shared usage?  Make everyone purchase their own service?  Other scenarios?

A major conundrum for cohousing and one that warrants a chapter in the next 
book on building a cohousing community. 

When we were conceived in 1998-1999, we had several advanced internet 
knowledgeable people who insisted that we install wiring for internet 
connections. Everyone has at least 4 jacks with telephone, cable TV, and 
ethernet connections in their units. The 3 and 4 bedrooms have more. Basically 
one in every room, even the kitchen. (We have connected units, not houses on 

There are routers in the north and south basements and in the common house 
basement that connect all these wires to modems. For years we only had one 
modem. Then we upgraded to one modem with business class service, now to two 
business class services and modems from different companies so we rarely have a 
total outage because one service is down. Service is just slow.

One modem used to serve the north side and one the south side but I pointed out 
that I have a major league adult gamer upstairs from me -- major screen in the 
middle of the living room in-front of couch-- and he works from home in DC for 
an internet security firm in Idaho. Unfair advantage to be limited to the same 
modem. Now the traffic rolls over.

Each device connected to the internet has its own IP address (one for each 
jack). This has caused a problem with Bluehost, our ISP, because they don't 
like our account coming from different IPs all the time. So we have some 
special connection with them. When I work on the website, that was a problem 
because my own IP and email is on my account at Bluehost. Even though I have my 
own account on Bluehost, working on websites is upload intensive and with 
everyone's email plus any internet connections to other website also hosted by 
Bluehost caused traffic jams. So they now run all the connections to Bluehost 
through a second single IP address.

In addition, when people started using wireless, we installed community 
wireless connections for people to use. And we use each others. All the 
passwords are the same.

We have an intranet so people can share music and files, and the teenagers play 
games with each other. Several units collectively bought an expensive backdrive 
to share and use the intranet to backup.

The problems are around the routers. One or the other of them blows a port with 
some regularity. It's a long process to test the system and isolate the bad 
ports. We have internal people--one active expert and one that can be called 
in, and 2-3 who have training. The trained can get on the phone with expert and 
understand how to follow his instructions. ____Without internal people to 
manage the network, we couldn't do this.____

One person who works professionally installing networks recommends purchasing 
new routers every year. Install the basic reliable inexpensive router and when 
you replace the next year the most reliable extra features will be built in and 
you will always have up to date technology. And no downtimes. Others think this 
is wasteful so we have downtimes until someone gets a new router. I think we 
now always have a backup handy.

Many would like to hire someone who would always be available. Our current 
expert often goes to remote places to hike. But it would be expensive and no 
one is always available anyway. (We used to have 3 experts but two moved. We 
can still call them but the system changes so their knowledge is not always 

Some would like an external business class service that is guaranteed to be up 
99% of the time. It feels unreasonable to expect neighbors to get up at night 
to fix things but so many people work from home now they are dependent on the 
internet. I'm online literally 12-14 hours a day. (I can almost instantly 
contact the others who are online that much too. A subculture. I can email with 
Ann Zabaldo who lives upstairs all day long.)

We bought software so the techies can change settings and check the system from 
their computers but they still have to go to the basement when it is a hardware 
problem. Often for several hours.

We used to have huge problems with people moving in and setting up their 
computers without consulting our techs. They would bring down the whole system 
and we couldn't find the problem. And because we have an IP address for each 
device ( computers, cable system, netflix, blueray, etc.) people have to have 
the right settings or they throw someone else off the internet. Now the techs 
immediately contact new people to set them up. Even now when residents buy new 
equipment they forget that step. Auto detect doesn't always work right. With 
the wireless, this is less of a problem (I think).

It's soooo much cheaper than each of us having our own service. And we have 
faster service. It's slower on Friday night when every one seems to be watching 
movies or playing games. Sometimes on Saturday and Sunday but still not a slow 
as it would be if each of us had a smaller residential modem for $35 a month. 
43x$35=$1,500 a month. Instead we pay $365. Less than 20%. It is included in 
our condo fee so it is paid at the same rate with larger units paying more.

When we moved in, less than half our households used the internet at some. 
Some, not at all. A number used it only at work. Others only on weekends. 
Whenever we sent out an email with a request it had to be out there over a 
weekend so people could read at home and over some workdays for those who only 
read at work. We had (and have) a computer in the office for people who didn't 
have or need a computer at home.

When only a few were using the internet at home, it was harder to get attention 
to the network being down because very few people were dependent on it. Several 
of us had our own modems because of this.

Now every household has at least one device hooked up. I have four and have my 
own router to handle them. Some have their own internal intranet so they can 
share devices. Perhaps a third work at home all the time or a significant part 
of the time. And that number is growing rapidly. I would guess that most people 
check work email at home though many companies are now not allowing that for 
security reasons.

A long history but an important one that I think that Takoma Village has 
handled at a high level because we had tech savvy people from the beginning who 
were avid about new technology and foresaw the future--even though it still 
isn't perfect. Every community will probably be at some point in this 
evolutionary process. If anyone is beyond it, please let us know!!!!

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

Results generated by Tiger Technologies Web hosting using MHonArc.