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Chapter 18. Networking > Home Networks for Broadband

Home Networks for Broadband

If you have broadband Internet service, your bandwidth is enough to accommodate multiple simultaneous connections throughout your home. Unfortunately, the solutions for sharing access are not so clear anymore and depend greatly on your service provider and associated service.

Service Providers: Fact and Fiction

A couple of questions always arise in one's mind when considering equipment and support plans from service providers. I'll do my best to separate the facts from the fiction.

Service providers don't usually offer the best technology available on the market—FICTION

The first question often asked is if it makes sense to find your own equipment, perhaps at a better price or with more features, than what is offered by the service provider. In most cases, the service provider has screened the products on the market to ensure that the product it offers to you (a) works on the network, (b) is familiar to its support technicians for easy troubleshooting, and (c) is best of breed with regard to security, installation ease, and features offered. In addition, most providers today offer products at a price competitive with what you would find at retail. Further, many subsidize said equipment so as to retain you as a broadband customer. The thinking here is that the more devices you connect to their broadband services, the more addicted you will become to their offerings, and the less likely you will be to turn to another provider. This works out to your benefit in terms of initial cash outlay.

If I buy home networking products in retail, the provider won't troubleshoot any of my broadband problems until I disconnect my home network—FACT (in most cases)

Most service providers are not prepared to answer questions regarding the various networking products on the market that they don't offer themselves. This is the reason that they typically ship a specific modem, adapter cards, and/or related products. This ensures that they have a baseline from which to provide customer care and assess the root cause of any problem. That said, if you install a home network and call for support when experiencing a service outage (they do happen in the broadband world), it is likely that the service agent will troubleshoot the problem starting from the desktop, working backward toward the modem, then to the network. Without fail, if you try to answer their questions while you have a home network installed, it will prove impossible. They consistently discover that you have a home network and will ask that you call back at a later time after you have set up your home according to the directions provided with your installation package in a non-networked configuration. The only way around this is to purchase a support plan.

The key here is whether the benefits of such packages are pertinent to you. In most instances, you pay the service provider approximately $10 per month for a home networking support plan. What do you get for your money? First, you get access to that provider's service and support lines for the setup of your home network. For those out there who are technical, this doesn't seem like a very good return on your investment. However, for those of you starting out with networking, having an expert available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week is of high value, especially at the beginning, when you are setting up.

Once you have your home network up and running, the support plan provides an ongoing resource for you to turn to as you (a) add more computers and devices to your network, (b) change technologies you use on any given computer (say, for example, that you want to enable your notebook computer to use a wireless connection and it's Ethernet-connected today), and (c) add more software to your PC, which may or may not have an impact on your network's performance. This can prove to be a great resource for the beginner and intermediate user.

In addition, most service providers are now realizing that to sustain the value proposition to the established user, they must also offer incremental value-added services for home networking customers for the $10 per month. Accordingly, a new range of services called broadband applications are being introduced by providers in conjunction with the monthly fee to further reward and retain home networking customers. Examples of these services include enhanced firewall service, parental control service, and remote access services. These packages offer significant enhancements over the traditional software-based offerings available on the market today and are network based, so they can provide support for all devices in the home without the need for loading software on the PC.

Assuming that I don't have any problems with my broadband service and/or don't need to call customer care, the service provider won't know if I've bought my own home network or not—FACT.

Service providers are set up to hand out a single IP address to each household that subscribes to their services. When you set up a router or residential gateway to receive and manage that IP address for the house, that provider does not have visibility into how many computers you are supporting in your home. Accordingly, should you choose to buy a router at retail and set it up at home, it may very well work, and you'll get along just fine. Just make sure that you have a neighbor or cousin who can assist you if you run into trouble. And be aware that you may miss out on some other great offerings from your service provider.



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