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:
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]
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]
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]
Wait for Comcast to string a cable across the street to a pole on our side of the road. [2 months]
Wait for Comcast to connect us to the pole with a roll of coaxial cable. [1 month]
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.
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.
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).
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
If you're reading this, thank you Ivan!