Methods to provide internet backup connectivity at home – Part 2

How well do you know your neighbors? No, really – how well do you know your neighbors and how well do you trust them? If you know and trust your neighbors and you are looking for a creative way to provide backup internet connectivity this post is for you!

If your neighborhood is like mine, you probably have a dozen or so Wi-Fi networks that show up when you connect to your home Wi-Fi network. Behind the scenes, many of your neighbors are probably using the same Internet Service Provider (ISP) but many of them are not. I was surprised to find out that in my area there are more than 5 ISP options available (for a good look at what options are available for internet connectivity check this out). Examples of options available include cable, fibre, satellite, DSL and other solutions.

Connect to multiple ISP’s

If you truly cannot function without a functional internet connection and a tether is not a viable option then you should consider connecting your home to multiple ISP’s. For a simplistic approach, you can connect to two different providers and have each share out via different Wi-Fi configurations. A more complex configuration would require configuring a router that has a connection to both ISP’s and can switch between connections in case of a failure (or even load balance between both ISP’s). There are several negatives to this approach:

  • This approach requires paying for multiple ISP’s on a monthly basis.
  • This approach requires implementation and maintenance of more complicated networking solutions which may be too complex for most non-technical people to implement. As an example, I would probably have to phone a friend for help is I wanted to load balance between two ISP’s at my house.
  • To find out what ISP’s are in your area, check this out!

Develop a backup internet alliance

If you are friends with your neighbors another option is to set up a secured guest network on your home and share that with your neighbors. In this configuration, they can connect to your network in case of an ISP failure and hopefully they will reciprocate (assuming that you and your neighbors are not both on the same ISP). If you have 2 or 3 neighbors who are in the Wi-Fi range and they use different ISP’s you can provide a backup connection that would continue to function even if a single ISP were to go offline.

There are several challenges which this approach would need to be considered or mitigated:

  • Security:
    • Upgrade your home router to the latest firmware version.
    • No matter what do not share your regular network Wi-Fi password outside of your house as that’s asking for troubles. In this configuration, you would share your guest network configuration.
    • If you see indications that someone is abusing your guest network, shut down the guest network immediately.
    • For additional information on security and sharing your network with a neighbor see this article and this one.
  • Speed:
    • As Wi-Fi signals go over a further range, their signal strengths decrease, and the speed of the connection also decreases. So even with a good internet connection, the speed of the backup link may be much slower due to the distance the Wi-Fi signal is having to travel.
    • Depending on how close your neighbors are you could even run a hard-wired connection between the houses depending on the distance between them. As an example, you can run up to 100 meters for an ethernet connection between switches.
  • Responsibility:
    • For most ISP’s you are responsible for any traffic which comes from your connection to the internet. This means that even if someone is on your guest network you can be held responsible for the actions which they take on the internet. So again, you need to know and trust your neighbors especially if this is your ISP’s policy.
  • ISP restrictions:
    • Many ISP’s will restrict the ability to share your internet connection even during the situation we are all in with the current virus outbreak. Be careful to check your ISP’s service agreement for the specifics of your agreement.

This concept of a backup internet alliance could be approached on an individual level as discussed in the example below, on a neighborhood level or potentially even on a city level. Imagine for a minute what it would be like if you could go anywhere in your town and connect wherever you went spanning the variety of ISP’s which are available.

Summary: There are additional ways to provide backup internet connectivity including getting connected to a second ISP and/or creating a backup network alliance to provide a functional connection even when your ISP goes offline.

In the next part of this blog post series, I will provide some options I have found out about recently, a step-by-step I used at home, and information from some of my colleagues in the industry!

 

The links for this series are below:

Part 1: How to use tethering to provide backup internet connectivity

Part 3: How router configuration can provide backup internet connectivity and maximize bandwidth