Appendix A. Lessons from Vineyard.NET

The following appendix provides an account of a real-life experience with operating an Internet service provider. It details Simson’s experiences starting and operating a small ISP named Vineyard.NET and keeping that ISP secure.

In the Beginning

In May 1995, my wife and I bought a run-down 150-year-old house on Martha’s Vineyard, a small island off the coast of Massachusetts with a winter population of roughly 12,000 and a summer population of over 100,000.

Our plan was to live year-round in this somewhat isolated but romantic location. We weren’t worried: we would have a 56 kbps connection to the Internet as our main link to the outside world. But when we found out that the cost of our Internet hookup would be roughly $400 a month, we decided to start an Internet cooperative to help pay for it.

We figured we could get together eight people and have them each pay $50/month for a full-time connection. Of course, eight full-time connections meant that we also needed to have some number of dialup lines, increasing our monthly charges by roughly $30 per line. (How many dialup lines did we need? Two? Eight? We didn’t know.) Perhaps a better alternative, we realized, would be to get a few dozen people together and charge them each $30/month. As it was unlikely that all of those people would want to go online at the same time, we could probably get away with having only 1 modem for every 5 customers, or perhaps 1 modem for every 10. Our back-of-the-envelope ...

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