In Over My Head -- What do I need to setup a tiny ISP?


Please allow me to apologize profusely if my post is offensive, or in error.
I have been lurking on this list watching and learning from all the great
posts here and am in awe of everyone here. I can only hope one day to be as
knowledgeable as anyone on this list.

That being said, some people who have a lot more faith in my abilities than
I do seem to think I am the go-to guy for network information. And they
foolishly asked me for assistance in putting together a small ISP network
which is supposed to cater for home users inside of a residential area,
very likely wireless (wifi/WIMAX).

I have no idea what the nuts and bolts of this kind of setup are. All I
have in my toolbox are some hastily learnt CCNA lingo, a good knowledge of
networks, system and network admin experience, and a deep love of open
source software.

I'm hoping the great gurus on this site can advise me on what needs to be
put together ( infrastructure, AAA, billing, etc) for this to run?

I confess I am really interested in helping my questioners put this
together, not just for whatever material gain (which is unlikely at this
point), but just for the experience which is very valuable to me. I also
have to state that I live in Nigeria, so whatever advice you offer has to
be fourth-world applicable.

I humbly await your kind responses, and I apologize once again if I am in

Thanks for listening!

Hello, I can not tell you how to set up an ISP. There are people on
here that have worked on doing just that and a good place for you to
start would be here:

  Another good resource would be found at

  This was set up by folk who frequent the NANOG forum and these people
know their stuff.
  I interned at an ISP, but that was many years ago before wireless was
happening so I don't have much to offer other than these links.
  I wish you success in your endeavor. One suggestion from me would be
for you to use your real name so that you can be considered a
professional. Just my own opinion, but there it is.
  Sincerely, Richard Golodner

Given your starting conditions, I'd advise the reading of which you
can download a free (2001 ed.) copy of from Cisco at

Probably a little dated and with lots of Cisco specific stuff, but most of
the concepts can probably be extrapolated to other devices.

Not sure if it covers billing, though, and probably won't cover wifi/wimax.


Much of the 'new' activity in ISP's is in wireless last mile. WISPA is a trade organization with several mailing lists where the topics you mention are discussed on a regular basis and new ISP questions are not unusual ( The archives of the general mailing list are a good place to start.

You do not have to join WISPA to subscribe to the mailing list or to see the archives.


I would also mention that Ubiquity (vendor of a lot of wireless gear) has an excellent (active and friendly) community forum. There are a number of posts on there from people in similar positions. You might give it a shot:

I do not work for Ubiquity nor do I have any material interest in the company.


Michael Studniberg, P.Eng
Government of Ontario
Office: (416) 212-6176
Mobile: (416) 884-1650

Thanks a lot everyone. You responses are so full

Thank you so much everyone. I have so much information that I'm not sure
how to process it all.

I am deeply grateful. In a week or so I should probably be able to pose as
a subject matter expert (I wish)!

I'll definitely be back with more questions but for now let me just say
thank you, thank you, thank you all.