How not to install Internet service.

I knew that Comcast was not a business-grade ISP (despite their ads), but this low-rent installation surprised even me.

illustration by Russ Bellew

A friend recently (against my recommendation) switched his business’ Internet Service Provider (ISP) from AT&T DSL to Comcast cable. I visited his small business to see the new installation.

Roughly 75 feet separates the outside walls of his adjoining shop and office. They share a common supporting wall. The existing AT&T phone and DSL service entrance point is in his office. For some reason, the new Comcast cable service entrance point is in his shop. Rather than run a cable from the Comcast service entrance point to his existing router in the office, the installer chose to terminate at the new Comcast entrance point, install a second Comcast router in the office, and link them wirelessly. I’d estimate that he saved about 1 hour of labor.

This should have failed a quality control inspection.

If I had been on site, I wouldn’t have accepted this installation. Why? Because this installation violates Russ Bellew’s First Law Of WiFi: Wireless should be your last choice, not your first choice. It also violates my Second Law Of WiFi, which is If both points are fixed (not mobile), connect them with cable, not wireless. Worse, by needlessly occupying a WiFi channel, he’s crowded limited WiFi spectrum and restricted the business owner’s future WiFi expansion possibilities (and maybe those of his neighbors).

Q: Does WiFi ever make sense between fixed points?

A: Yes. Here’s one case:
Connect buildings with WiFi

Although the bandwidth of 802.11g is published as 54 Mbps, its real data throughput is about half of that, due to 802.11’s high protocol overhead. Also, 802.11g is half-duplex, as opposed to 100baseT’s full duplex communication. In short, wireless should have been the installer’s last choice.

I’d guess that to run a cable from the outside wall of the shop to the outside wall of the office would require about 1 hour of labor. The cable could be run either within the building or along its outside wall. This must have looked like hard work to the installer.


The old Bell System published and adhered to its standards and practices, which specified the right way to do everything. Customer premise wiring, when done by a Bell System installer, was done properly.

Does Comcast have any quality control?

This installation was probably done by a Comcast contractor, who’s paid per installation. He wants to complete each job as quickly as possible, even if that means taking shortcuts. What standards must Comcast contractors follow? Who oversees quality control of business premise installations?

I see dumb WiFi setups every week, but they’re always cobbled together by naïve end-users. This is the first time that I’ve seen a dumb WiFi lash-up by an ISP. This is one more piece of evidence that Comcast is not REALLY ready for business class service (despite their advertisements).

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695


2 thoughts on “How not to install Internet service.”

  1. My house had Comcast service before I purchased it. I had Verizon FIOS installed.

    The Comcast line ran across the side yard directly over the existing pool. Every time I would brush, vacuum or skim the pool, the long pole would get caught in the line. Comcast gave me a little flack when I called to have the line removed, but did eventually remove it. I don’t know how many years the former owner put up with that, but the pool was built in 1982. Cable was not all that common back then, so I’ll guess that the cable was installed after the pool.

    Unfortunately, that was one of the more minor issues I’ve since had to fix at this house.


    1. AT&T installers were taught the proper way to install telephone service. I’m sure that it actually cost AT&T less money over time to do tidy installations, because of reduced repair and maintenance costs. (In the electric power industry, it’s common to amortize outside plant over a 30-year period. I’d guess that the telephone and cable-TV industries are similar.) I have no idea what standards and practices are taught to cable TV subcontractors, or who monitors installation quality.

      I may be picking nits regarding my article’s wireless installation. The service does, after all, work. It just strikes me as a wasteful way to provide Internet service to the subscriber. It needlessly both adds complexity and consumes electricity and precious radio spectrum.

      I was taught that the best and most reliable solution to a problem is the simplest one. Maybe they don’t teach that lesson anymore.


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