For those of us who are willing to ensure the security of our own systems, Toscana should provide a way around the firewall restrictions, dynamic addressing, and filtering. This would allow us to run our own servers, accept videoconferencing requests, and so on. This is a freedom already widely available from most commercial ISPs, including even PBI. It's not rare, weird, or difficult, it's just a standard configuration option on Internet access hardware.
Pacific Bell is a good ISP and has redundant connections to its own Internet feeds, but Toscana's reliance on PBI produces a single-point failure mechanism. If our link to PBI goes down, we're offline. (Indeed, as I write this on the evening of February 9, we ARE offline.) With up to 709 apartment units hooked up inside the complex, Toscana should have an arrangement with at least one other ISP to share the traffic load and provide automatic fail-over protection. This, too, is a standard feature available on the Cisco equipment already installed here.
Toscana has a legitimate concern over the possibility that a single user-- or server-- might use a disproportionate share of the available bandwidth on the complex's T-1 line. Fortunately, there are solutions for this problem. Modern servers can be configured to limit the amount of traffic they generate, though the control is usually rather coarse. There are also products on the market that can dynamically manage the traffic over a LAN or WAN connection, preventing any one user or server from using more than some specified amount of bandwidth. The PacketShaper product from Packeteer can manage both inbound and outbound traffic, making it more appropriate for environments like Toscana where it's just not practical for the network administrator to manage each server on the local network. One set of rules in the PacketShaper can enforce fair use of the Internet link by all local and remote systems.
It's fair to say that many Toscana residents aren't prepared to run their own Web servers just to publish their own Web pages. It's also fair to say that Toscana promised us (months ago) that there'd be a local Web server we could use. This Web site is currently being hosted by Best Internet because I gave up waiting for Toscana to keep their promises.
Before I learned how messed up the Toscana Internet service was, I was planning to run my own Web server from my apartment just as I'd been doing (using a slower ISDN link) from my previous home. I even registered a cool domain name (tosca.net) and designed a logo. Alas, there is no tosca.net. My trusty SPARCstation IPX sits beside me here, quiet and cold these last six months. It's all ready to boot up and get back online, but this may not happen anytime soon. Then again, maybe it will...
Onwards: Other options for fast Internet access
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