Frequently Asked Questions
Q. What is La Cañada Wireless Association (LCWA)?
We are a non-profit cooperative located in the Santa Fe, New Mexico area that is dedicated to providing low-cost, high-speed internet access to the South 285 Corridor and other nearby underserved areas. We are modeled on the community network model, which promotes cooperative sharing of bandwidth and access. We also believe that bandwidth and access should be free of corporate control, governed and owned by the users.
Q. What does the service cost?
Our fees for service are determined by our members at regular meetings. Our objective is to provide 2+ Mbps symmetric access for approximately $40 per month. Our prices go down (and/or bandwidth goes up) as the number of members go up because we split the fixed cost of the internet connection. Please see our Services & Rates page for more information.
Q. Why is the service so cheap?
No salaries, low overhead, no capital intensive infrastructure. All labor to design, build, and support the network is performed by volunteers, and we use standard off-the-shelf components and/or low cost equipment.
Q. What does symmetric access mean?
That means that the data rate is roughly the same whether the data is coming to or leaving your house. Typically, cable and DSL are largely asymmetric, with a downstream (coming) data rate of 256 kbps to 3 Mbps (or more) and an upstream (going) data rate of 128 kbpsto 384 kbps. Due to the wireless nature of our network, we typically see rates of 1.5 Mbps down and 1 Mbps up.
Q. Why would I want symmetric access?
Although it may not make a significant difference for web browsing, its very useful if you send large files, use video conferencing, VPN, VoIP, or use the internet in any way that benefits from (or requires) a low latency high speed back-channel.
Q. How do you justify your access cost?
We pool the buying power of our membership households. We typically inventory a small amount of working capital to help support and build the network infrastructure.
Q. Where does the extra money go?
There are maintenance and overhead costs, but remember: this is a non-profit cooperative. The members decide about the disposition of any extra money. There’s no reason extra money, after expenses, couldn’t be rebated to the members. As a community resource, the money could be used to provide access to needy households. Some of the money is used to provide access to the Eldorado public library, the Eldorado Senior Citizens Center, and the Agora.
Q. What does it cost to get started?
There is equipment required at your house to reach our wireless access points. This includes a wireless bridge, a PoE device, a router, and associated cabling and mounting. Depending how adept one is with electronics and mechanics, the cost can range from $100 to $400 for this equipment. The association can’t afford to front you the cost of this equipment like for-profit companies do – that’s part of keeping our monthly costs as low as possible. So, you’ll have to front that money yourself.
Q. Isn’t that a lot of money to get started?
With for-profit high-speed network providers, you will most likely pay that much, and maybe more. The difference is that with for-profits, you amortize the cost of your hardware over the duration of your service contract. In addition, there’s usually other overt and/or covert charges like “installation cost”, “programming fee”, and such. In some cases, you don’t even get to keep the hardware.
Q. What kind of equipment to I need?
We use commercially available hardware; some of which you can find at your local electronics store. This keeps the cost low, and gives you the ability to use the equipment for other uses if you decide to not use our network anymore. In fact, some members prefer to buy their equipment locally so that it can be returned in case it fails during the warranty period.
Q. How do you determine your service area?
LCWA is committed to providing high-speed internet access to underserved areas. We select coverage areas based on the lack of alternatives presented by for-profit providers that either can’t afford to invest in remote areas, or won’t make any profit doing so. As we grow, we hope to help others that believe in the community model to create their own wireless communities or “clouds” that can interconnect to ours.
Q. Who installs and maintains the network?
A group of volunteers with well over a century of relevant experience in computer programming, networking, field installations, computing support, mechanical engineering/fabrication, architecture, marketing, technical writing, finance, and more. Rather than go into detail here, it’s better to meet the people if you have interest. Or better yet, join us and help.
Q. What about email service?
LCWA provides outgoing email service to its members via SMTP. This is accessible from anywhere on the Internet and will be secure (encrypted) and authenticated to prevent spamming. For email inboxes, there are a number of providers that provide low-cost, even free, services. We are not interested in incurring the overhead and potential liability of running inbound email services with the attendant backups, etc.
Q. What about web hosting?
LCWA does not provide web hosting. There are a number of providers that provide this service. We are not interested in incurring the overhead and potential liability of running web hosting with the attendant backups, etc.
Q. How reliable is it?
We’re constantly improving our network reliability while we expand. Just like for-profit organizations, we offer no guarantees for up time, but network outages are very infrequent and localized to small segments of the network.
Q. Is it always on?
Yes. From your computer’s point of view, we are your local area network, or LAN. Connection-wise, we operate much like DSL or Satellite connections where network devices are connected into your 10/100 network card on your PC. Unlike those services, however, we operate behind a firewall, greatly minimizing attacks on your computer from the outside world.
Q. How do I get connected?
There are a few steps to get connected. Please review our Get Involved with LCWA page to familiarize yourself with the procedure.
Q. What radio should I order?
LCWA will recommend the radio.
Q. What router should I order?
LCWA recommends the Linksys WRT54 router version 3 or later. They are known to work will with the LCWA network and PPPoE, are relatively inexpensive, and are widely available on the internet. Newer routers by Linksys and Netgear may also work well and are available at Best Buy, Office Depot, Office Max, Lowes, Home Depot and other retail outlets in Santa Fe. Any router selected must support WPA security. WEP is not sufficient.
Q. How do I convert to PPPoe?
See the PPPoE Setup page.
Q. What changes do I make to my radio settings when converting to PPPoE?
None. PPPoE settings only affect the member router.
Q. What changes do I make to my computer settings when converting to PPPoE?
In most cases none. PPPoE settings only affect the member router. The computer should be set up to accept the DNS addresses provided by the router DHCP service. On Windows computers it may be necessary to ensure this by examining the “network connection” settings, available under the Control Panel network options. Apple computers may require a restart after PPPoE settings are changed in order to refresh the DNS settings.
Q. Why can’t I see my radio after converting the router to PPPoE?
If your router has been converted to PPPoE, it will have an IP address in the 63.x.x.x range, or, if it can’t connect to the PPPoE server, an IP address of 0.0.0.0. In either case, the radio, which has an address in the 10.x.x.x range, will not be visible to the router – hence not visible to your computer.
Q. I have DirectTV. Will it be better with LCWA?
DirectTV, and other satellite based TV systems, were designed from the ground up to support continuous streaming of data to many thousands of subscribers simultaneously. LCWA uses technology built on a “packet switched” architecture, designed to move millions of packets reliably between computers. The streaming design doesn’t care about a few lost bits here and there, since the image is refreshed 30 times a second anyway, but is sensitive to delays on delivery of data – which can cause image jitter and degradation. The “packet switched” architecture doesn’t care about a few delays here and there, so long as the packets arrive reliably and intact. The architectural goals of the two systems are fundamentally different. The result is that streaming video will look better on a system designed from the ground up to support image quality and stability, and transmission of email messages and bank balances will work better on a system designed to deliver data reliably.