So, you want to be a Node?

Personal Telco gets quite a few emails from individuals and businesses who have the same question: "What entails 'being a node'? I think I want this, but how do I do it?". This page aims to answer these questions, and hopefully in a helpful, clear, and concise way. This document is part of a Wiki, a web-page that anyone can edit, so if you think you can improve it - please do!


Preliminary Requirements


First things first, you will need a "high-speed" internet connection. DSL is preferable to other service types because it is slightly less monopolistic (providing you more choices).


Although any high-speed internet connection with reasonable Terms of Service (TOS) will suffice, here are a few DSL Internet Service Providers (ISPs) that we can recommend:

Phone Line

In addition to an ISP, you will need to have a phone line to carry the DSL service. Most likely you already know who your phone company is. Qwest and Verizon are the largest "consumer" phone companies:

It is common for a phone company to be an ISP too. For instance, Qwest will try to give you the "hard-sell" on their ISP service, but you don't want that - you only want a phone line from them. Sometimes you can get a "naked" phone line that is for DSL, but cannot be used for voice calls. This is often a cheaper method if you wouldn't have a phone line otherwise.

If you can, get a "static IP". Your ISP will know about this. It is not necessary, but is more flexible in the long run.

Now you are ready to choose Option 1 or Option 2

Option 1: Just in your house/business

This is the simplest of the two options. It doesn't require considerations of weather conditions or big antennas mounted on your roof. It also isn't as fun :). If you have already done some combination of the following steps, skip over what you already have done.

Buy an Access Point (AP)

There are lots and lots of options in this area. Unfortunately low price tends to correlate with low quality. It is probably not a good idea to buy the cheapest thing you can find. On the other hand, you don't want to spend too much. Following are a few APs, this list is not exhaustive and is entirely subjective, but it can get you started. (Since this is a Wiki and anyone can edit this page, hopefully this list will evolve over time).

The list above is motivated primarily by how customisable a product is, and the experience Personal Telco has had with it. That said, if these things arn't terribly important to you (specifically customizability - something very important to geeks like us, but often less important to other people), than almost anything will do. Sometimes your DSL ISP will provide you with a DSL modem that can act as an access point too. While this piece of hardware isn't as "fun" as one of the ones above - you already have it.

Decide How you will run wires etc.

The phone company will install a phone line. Attached to this will be a modem, which they will provide. You will need to attach your AP to the modem. The AP needs to be in a location with a decent vantage point, ideally with line of sight to anywhere you would want to connect to it. Sometimes this will require running "Cat-5" networking cable between devices.

For instance, if you determine that the top of a bookshelf is the ideal location for an AP, you will need to run a cable from the top of the bookshelf to the modem (probably installed far away from the bookshelf :)).


At this point, all it takes to be a node is to set the SSID to "". The SSID is the name that your AP will use to advertise its service. Each consumer AP has a different method of configuration, so your best bet is to read the user guide that came with it.


Does it work? You will need a wifi client device to connect to it. There is plenty of information elsewhere on how to do this, and it is outside the scope of this document.

Option 2: Share with your neighbors

So, you want to share your connection with your neighbors, or neighboring buildings of some sort? Good for you! This is more complicated, but can be very rewarding. Going this route either requires:


If you are going to put gear on your roof, you need to consider weather conditions. You also will want to use more powerful antennas. There is an immense amount of hardware configurations that would work. PTP as a group has no brand allegience. For the sake of choosing something, I am going to model the suggestions off of the hardware we are currently using for the MississippiGrantProject.


No reason to reinvent the wheel. The ["AntennaInfo"] page will tell you everything you need to know about antennas. When you are ready to buy one, check out ["EquipmentVendors"].

Access Point (AP)

In the MississippiGrantProject, we are using Metrix Mark IIs. See here ["MetrixCommunicationLLC"] for some direction on where you might get one. You can also "weatherproof" consumer hardware, if you are considering this there are plenty of options. [TomHiggins One of our members] accomplished this with a Army Surplus Ammo Box and a Diaper. You can also keep the AP inside and run a long piece of antenna cable (maybe LMR400?) to the antenna.

Mounting Hardware

You will need to attach everything to your chimney or wherever it will fit. The ["AntennaMounts"] page has a little more info on this.

Logistics, Configuration, Testing

This really varies for each hardware setup. Regarding logistics, you will need to consider how to get (a) power and (b) ethernet to your AP. One novel approach is to "inject" power into the ethernet cable (see ["PowerOverEthernet"]).