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Off Grid Cable Internet Access w/ Power Over Ethernet

by Tyler

I am thrilled to say that I am posting this journal entry from a high speed cable internet connection, on our land, nestled in the Green Mountains of Vermont! Today was a triumphant day, and at the moment, I couldn't be happier. It feels as though a giant weight has been lifted from my shoulders—knowing that I will no longer have to rely on an intermittent cellular link with Verizon to get online for work is a huge relief.

It took about three months of patiently cajoling Comcast to make this happen. Here's a rough outline of how it went:

  1. Convince Comcast that they have cable on our street. It isn't until I explain that our friends and neighbors Jeremy and Hercilia are customers that they stop telling me they don't service our area. [2 days]

  2. Convince Comcast that we are eligible to be customers. They are denying service because we don't have a house, and therefore cannot ground the connection. They eventually concede that hammering a grounding rod into the earth does not require a home. [1 week]

  3. Wait for Comcast to determine what it will take to get their cable to our side of the road. The maximum distance they will go for free from an existing line is 300 feet. Thankfully, we are within range! [2 weeks]

  4. Wait for Comcast to string a cable across the street to a pole on our side of the road. [2 months]

  5. Wait for Comcast to connect us to the pole with a roll of coaxial cable. [1 month]

  6. Hook everything up! [4 hours]

For normal installations, Comcast supports a maximum run of 150 feet from their pole to the home. Our distance is four times that length: 600 feet. Ivan, our contact with Comcast, was understandably dubious when I told him all I needed was a cable that reached as far as our driveway—I'd take care of the rest. Thankfully, he was willing go along with our unconventional installation.

Tyler Pulling Conduited RG11 Coax Through Our Woods

In preparation for a longer-than-normal run, Ivan brought heavy gauge, pre-conduited RG11 cable (as opposed to the standard RG6 they normally use). We wound up using about 350 feet to get through the woods to our road. Once it was connected to the pole, a service tech tested our signal: it rated 10 out 11! I have no idea what that is a measure of, but apparently it's very good. Miraculously, this was all free.

Tyler Pulling Conduited RG11 Coax Through Our Woods

With that, Ivan left me to it. Next, I connected a Linksys DPC3008-CC modem directly to the RG11 cable by the side of the road. From that point, Tara and I ran about 250 feet of Cat5e networking cable to reach our camper (the maximum theoretical length for this type of cable is ~328 feet).

Tyler Pulling Cat5e Network Cable Through Our Woods RG11 Coax Cable to RG6 Coax Cable

Then, I terminated both ends of the cable with RJ45 connectors. Incidentally, this is probably the only useful skill I learned in high school. Thanks Mr. Heinen!

Tyler Stripping Cat5e Network Cable Shielding Tyler Untwisting Cat5e Network Cable Pairs Tyler Untwisting Cat5e Network Cable Pairs Tyler Trimming Cat5e Network Cable Pairs Tyler Terminating Cat5e Network Cable Tyler Crimping Cat5e Network Cable Tyler's Cat5e Network Cable

In order to get electricity to the modem, I purchased a D-Link Power Over Ethernet Adapter Kit. It comes with two pieces of hardware: a base unit to send power and data over a Cat5e cable, and an adapter to split it back into two separate cables on the other end.

Power Over Ethernet Base Unit In Power Over Ethernet Base Unit Out Off Grid Cable Internet w/ Power Over Ethernet Power Over Ethernet Adapter Power/Data Split Out Power Over Ethernet Adapter Data/Power In

For our configuration, we are sending power from our camper to the cable modem, and getting an internet link back over the same cable, which connects to a wireless router in our camper. Eventually, the access point will live in our solar/battery shed, which should be centrally located to all of our buildings.

Tyler Testing Power Over Ethernet Setup

To round out the installation, Tara and I drove an 8-foot copper grounding rod into the earth and connected it to the grounding block on our RG11 cable with solid 6 gauge copper wire. Next to it, I mounted a weatherproof enclosure on a pole to hold the modem and power over ethernet adapter.

Tyler Cutting Cedar Plank Tyer Cuting Hole In Weatherproof Enclosure Tyler Installing Weatherproof Enclosure on Pole Tyler Installing Weatherproof Enclosure on Pole Tyler Securing Coax Grounding Block to Pole Tyler Installing Weatherproof Enclosure on Pole

Both devices give off a little bit of heat during normal operation—hopefully that will keep them warm enough to survive a Vermont winter. If not, I'll insulate the enclosure and we should be set to go!

Weatherproof Enclosure w/ Cable Modem & Power Over Ethernet Adapter

If you're reading this, thank you Ivan!

Our Cable Internet Connection
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Once again you've proved that persistence pays when you really want something, well done!
What happened to your right wrist? Is it a tick-proof armor? ;) or too much chainsawing?
You can keep the answer for friday...:)
Too funny, the second word of captcha is...t(h)ick!
Posted by David on May 13th, 2013 at 1:57 PM
Why not a wireless connection?
Why not linking to a satellite?

Both of these are options I've used in rural areas.

Yay for internet in the country - the great leveler.
Posted by et on May 13th, 2013 at 7:36 PM
Awesome....I'm jealous because I'll have to rely on satellite probably once we move up there (Comcast doesn't come out to Sandgate). You guys are my heros...such ingenuity and perserverance!!!!
Posted by Tambra JohnsonReap on May 14th, 2013 at 7:23 AM
I strained my ECU tendon about three months ago while working on the land. It turns out one should take it a little more slowly when going from being a computer geek to a lumberjack!

If by wireless you mean cellular, that's what we've been doing for the past few months. It's unreliable and slow, and there are restrictive transfer limitations. If you mean 4G internet from a company like Clear, that isn't available here. If you mean putting a wireless router down by the road, I'd still have to run power to it, so it makes sense to get data back over the same line and put the wireless router closer to us.

Satellite connections suffer from all the same issues as cellular, and their high latency makes working over SSH a nightmare--I am regularly working at the command line on remote servers during my workday.

For us, cable was an obvious decision: it's available, the connection is both fast and reliable, and perhaps best of all, it's cheap.

Aww, thanks! If you need any help with your internet stuff when the time comes, just give me a holler :)
Posted by Tyler on May 14th, 2013 at 2:06 PM
I just finished installing the same set up at my house. We are about 450' from the cable tap. I have them coming out this Friday to hook me up. Thank you for posting this. It has inspired me to do the same.

Question, how did your modem hold up to winter weather?

Posted by Steve on September 13th, 2015 at 9:28 AM
Hey Steve!

Thanks so much for getting in touch--it's so cool to hear that you were able to do this too! Our modem was just fine in the winter.

It didn't however, stand up very well to lightning storms. I'd recommend putting this surge protector on either end of the network and be sure it's connected to a really good ground. You might also consider one of these for the coax line.

We lost several modems/poe injectors to lightning over the years and never did figure out how best to mitigate the problem (other than disconnecting things during storms). FWIW, it may be our location, as we now have a buried/conduited network line and power running from our solar/battery shed to a new building near what is shown in this entry and we're still suffering from the problem (even without power over ethernet).
Posted by Tyler on October 18th, 2015 at 7:59 AM
Hi Tyler,

Awesome to see you where able to get cable out to your place. My wife and I purchased a home only 1100 feet from the drop. I had contracts drawn up and even sent them a $4700 check so they could do the work. They are now trying to back out and saying it's not in scope. At this point I've told them get the line on my land and I'll do the rest, which all they would need to do would be bring it across the street to us. I feel like I'm battling a company that doesn't care about it's own contracts, it's even worse knowing this is business class...Had contracts written up checked with them multiple times, etc just for them to try and back out once I fulfilled my end of the deal. I work in IT also, and have the same issue as you, 4g is non-existent and even getting a cell signal is laughable.

Who did you go through when dealing with this? Residential or Business class.
Do you have any tips for getting them to budge? I'm no where near as remote as you all, our farm is just 3 miles from the middle of the city...
Posted by Mario on October 26th, 2015 at 11:11 AM

Ugh. That sounds like a nightmare. I hope you've sorted this out already, but in case you haven't...

I was dealing with residential class for all of this. Based on my experience, you should be able to get residential to come across the street for free.

I would recommend asking what they want/need and no matter what it is, tell them you're going to give it to them (or that you're already in compliance). I wouldn't mention the house or its distance from the pole at all. Instead, I'd ask them how far they'll come from the pole and whatever that number is, tell them there is a structure there already and it's closer (if this works, throw a temporary shed together).

Basically, just completely submit to everything they are asking for with enthusiasm to get the line on your land. Once it's there you will never talk to these people again.

If you get totally stuck, shoot me an email (via our contact form) with your phone number and I'll give you a ring--we'll figure something out :)

PS: If you've managed to solve this, I'd love to hear what happened!
Posted by Tyler on January 3rd, 2016 at 11:34 PM
Glad to see you worked through this. I'm in the process of trying to get internet and phone through our carrier in Upstate NY. I'm developing property on Lake Ontario. I'm off grid. Thought things were going well until they told me there is an issue with potential difference in ground. My electrical system (33.33A 110V 1500W) is inspected and meets code. I have 2 ground rods. Did your carrier raise this issue with you?
Posted by John Wolford on April 18th, 2016 at 6:51 AM
Hey John! We did not encounter this concern. Were you able to work around the issue? If so, what was the resolution?
Posted by Tyler on June 28th, 2016 at 8:44 PM
Hey, so I figured I would update you on this, I gave up on my venture with comcast and ended up getting a grandfathered 4G plan. I did end up have to buy a 4G-X Cell Booster from Wilson (WeBoost) which ran me 1k total for everything. Then I had to build a micro tower and attach it to my roof to get even remotely above the tree line. I plan on building a 50-60' tower on the hill to get in line with the cell tower (if comcast doesn't make it first). But I'm happy to say I now have 5 down 1 up during the summer and winter it shoots to 15d/2-3u which is great.

They are building some new sub-divisions about a mile 1/2 up the road from us and it's going to force them to bring in a new Fiber line. Which at this point I'd still jump on, Since going with business class and they could care less about what their customers think, I'll be seeing if the residential side will help out more. Apparently they are two different companies, that don't even share employees. We have thought about buying land next to us which has a drop already, and doing a point to point system, as I have currently a point to point inside of my barn which shoots back to the house so we can get wifi/internet/LAN inside the barn, which is great as my workshop is part of the barn, so my entire NAS library is shared.

As for what you ended up going with, I can tell you now after months of research you would have saved yourself a lot of money and time using a ubiquity point to point run, it's cheap, easy to setup and the cheapest can do up to 6 miles @ 100mbits with clear line of site.

Since you are now 3 years into your venture, how are the lines and box holding up?
Posted by Mario on June 29th, 2016 at 7:53 AM