Thinking Outside the Box

Justin Czech   -  

To start 2021, I wanted to spend some time highlighting a recent request that came through our District Tech Desk. As a reminder the Tech Desk is here to support and provide consult on tech related issues for churches on the Pittsburgh District. We will never claim to have all the answers but do hope to point you in the right direction and cut through the noise.

Getting to it..

The Franklin COTN had a situation where their parsonage was only serviceable by DSL. To make matters worse the church parsonage was at the maximum distance from the local loop, and the best speeds the local provider (Verizon) could offer was 3M/768K. On the very best days they would barely see half of the provisioned speeds. To add insult to injury Verizon was charging the church $110/mo. for this paltry service. The remote learning, and increased connectivity requirements of COVID meant the current solution was no longer feasible, and the church needed to look at options to replace this service.

Speedtest result from DSL service at Franklin Parsonage

When evaluating available broadband services for an area one of the first stops you should look at is the FCC Broadband Deployment Map. While this is a good start, often the full story requires further investigation. Sometimes this requires contacting the listed providers and ensuring the data is up to date and correct. Often this requires a site visit to validate. In this case a site visit was necessary to validate the availability of service.


During the site visit we determined that there was no cable drop from Spectrum, and thus the Spectrum service listed as available on FCC’s website was incorrect. Spectrum would happily install and run the cable for this drop at an estimated $3,000-$5,000. This cost would need to be paid by the Franklin Church as the distance between the pole on the street, and the house was outside the standard cable drop range. This was not an option.

After some additional research we decided to pursue extending the church network via a ‘customer owned’ point-to-point (P2P) network bridge. A quote for hardware was provided to the local church to extend their existing Ubiquiti managed network from the church to the parsonage. The Spectrum provided internet was much faster (200M/10M), and cheaper than the Verizon DSL at a cost of around $80/mo. Once the P2P network is established the church will be able to cancel the Verizon DSL service – saving $110 a month. This investment of $950 will pay back in less than 9 months’ time and going forward allow the church to possibly redistribute those funds to another ministry. This solution also allows Pastor David Smith’s daughter to continue her remote learning without using the hotspot off their phones or going up to the church and using the Wi-Fi there. Here is a look at the UniFi Dashboard and a few install pictures.


Closing notes…

Ubiquiti offers managed switches and gateways that are targeted towards small businesses, and organizations that require greater control than your typical consumer equipment allows. With their Ubiquiti Network the Franklin COTN is able to segment their network to support their streaming, office, and guest networks — all without impacting performance to their Sunday streams. The UniFi gateways provide additional network security features that stop malicious activity, and prevent access to harmful websites. If you’d like more information on implementing a similar solution for your church please click the button at the bottom of the page.