We had a one hour meeting with James Nowlan from 123Net on November 10. About 20 people showed up, which I thought was good turn out considering the meeting was organized in a hurry and I had time only to send out about 50 or so email notices.

We had a number of questions answered and have gotten direction as to next steps in term of residential wireless access. Some of the pertinent points from the meeting:

  • 123Net offers two plans. A 16 Mbps plan equivalent to typical Cable internet speed for $60/month and a 1 Mbps plan equivalent to low end cable speeds for $40. The high end plan requires “Line Of Sight” to their tower. The low end plan does not.
  • Line Of Sight means that, from an antenna mounted on your house (probably the roof) you can physically see their tower. The lower speed option is “Non-Line Of Sight”. It can go through trees and some obstructions.
  • There is new equipment just approved by the FCC that would enable high speed connections without Line Of Sight. 123Net is getting the equipment for testing, it may be an option for people to get high speeds who are behind trees.
  • 123Net has no data caps. Unlike Verizon, AT&T, HughsNet, and even Charter Cable, 123Net does not restrict the amount of data you can download or reduce your speed after you use a certain amount of data.
  • 123Net will need to set up equipment on an existing tower or we would need to build a tower in the neighborhood. Existing towers include the U of M tower on Peach Mountain and the Sprint/Nextel tower on Barker Road. My best guess at cost of erecting a tower is $15,000 – $20,000.
  • Ordinances require a tower to be 400′ from any structure and 150′ from the road. They must be built on public land. There is not any public land in our neighborhood, we would have to pursue a variance if we build a tower. As this is a community project for the public good, we may get some sympathy for a variance.
  • There is a $200 hook up fee to install the necessary equipment on our house. We would not own the equipment. 123Net would come out for free to service it if we have any problems.
  • Service requires an antenna be mounted probably on your roof. There are 2 kinds of antennas. The high speed service uses a 2 foot x 1 foot slightly curved wire mesh style antenna. The low speed service uses a 6′ long narrow antenna that looks like the blade of a hedge trimmer.

Next Steps:

I’ll be working with some neighbors to find out if 123Net can put their equipment on the U of M tower on Peach Mountain. This may be a long shot but it is worth pursuing.

If the U of M tower does not pan out, we’ll look at where we could put a tower in the neighborhood or if the Sprint/Nextel tower on Barker Road could service us.