Update to the bucket o’ internet project (The Hills Have Wi-Fis)

Back in January of 2022 I was tasked with getting a hill top up and running with a security system and providing Wi-Fi for anyone who was there. It’s a quarter mile from anywhere and at the time there was little to no cell signal so even cell connected cameras were going to be problematic. What we did have however was power, and a fiber optic internet provider that was willing to work with us as they had what I’m assuming was a fairly easy run up the hill.

The objective was to guard a hilltop construction site that’s a quarter mile from the nearest human, be able to see when construction workers are on site, guard some highly specific stuff that looks like it’s valuable and worth stealing (but probably isn’t due to it only working on this project,) and generally just give everyone the ability to pop in see something, and say something about progress.

The choice was made to use some Eufy SoloCams with solar panels due to there being one electrical outlet that worked within a quarter mile. These things store a couple of gigs locally of video and connect via Wi-Fi. Other than some issues with solar panels vs squirrels who like to sit on them, there were no power issues to speak of. Really, squirrels… I had video.

As we had a fiber optic connection to a board that also had two power outlets, we needed to secure that and the several hundred dollar thing I needed was on backorder so the next choice was a 48-quart Island Breeze cooler. Don’t buy from that link, they’re about double what they can be found for but that’s the product.

I happened to have this particular horrid cooler in stock at my house because an ex-roommate borrowed my good one, loaned it to a friend of his, they didn’t return my nice cooler, and I ended up saddled with this one that had no drain spigot. Thanks Aaron. Although I guess in the end I did end up getting comped for a better cooler.

I cut a small hole in the bottom to run a power cable through, put a UPS, power strip, Asus RT-AX3000 Wi-Fi 6 Router into the box and met the United ISP service tech who thought he was installing internet in a walk-in fridge for a restaurant (he was told “cooler”) – laughs were had, it ended up working, bam.

161 days went by and the internet went down. Something ate the fiber optic cable. This was replaced and we kept an eye on it.

A month or two later we had a power outage at the pole, after a while the UPS died. I suspect the two outlet breaker box may have blown a breaker from a lightning strike, but no idea. The result was that when power returned the UPS did not turn back on. Someone other than me went, opened the box, pressed the button, and everything started working again.

Unfortunately they, or someone after them, didn’t close the cooler correctly and shut the lid on a wad of tape they’d (or someone else,) ripped off that was making sure the entire thing stayed sealed. The result was the next rain water poured into the cooler because it was not sealed tight and it’s sitting on the top of a hill getting 40mph side winds on a non-breezy day.

I got to the bucket, there were 3 inches of water in the thing. The UPS had shut off as it was designed to (still works fine as a note, just not there.) The Adtran and Wi-Fi were mounted to the top of the lid. The Adtran additionally had the power of Ziplock Sandwich Bag technology keeping it dry. Other than some excess humidity for a day the Asus Wi-Fi appeared to be none the worse for wear. I removed the UPS from the equation because at the time it did not work and I wanted to make sure it didn’t explode.

I asked that people use fancy large rock technology and place on top of the cooler to ensure this never happened again. I got it wrapped in a tarp instead, but it functioned.

The internet worked fine until three weeks ago when I have video of a man walking down the hill toward the bucket and then the network cut out. I’d assumed he pulled the plug, but it turns out we had another fiber break and I’m pretty sure it’s coincidental. ISP came out, fiber break, replaced, and left us with a spare fiber optic cable in the event I needed to change it. That night the internet went down again. They came out the next day and both the main and replacement fiber optic cables were broken/chewed through. Put conduit on, caulked the unit shut.

Mice broke into the cooler through the caulk and feasted. It was mice, they had a food source.

I should note, United here was going way above and beyond what I expected them to. They declared that there was no way to stop the mice at this point with what we had. The mice knew there was a food source there (soy-based wrapping on fiber optic cable,) and nothing short of poison, glue, etc was going to stop this.

So they came up with a different plan, replacing the Adtran we had with a pole-mounted outdoor version of the unit that used standard ethernet cables. Those were not made with soy-based shielding.

And that’s where the bucket is at now.

I had no idea that we were using Dorito’s Cool Ranch Fiber Optic Technology in our nation’s data supply, but it’s something that managed to hold up for quite a while. Had they not had a different router that could be pole mounted outdoors and provide fiber connection to the bucket, I’d have to have come up with something new and equally impressive.

The outdoor cage that I was considering has reviews complaining about ants entering and destroying fiber optic cabling, so I suspect that would have been a possibility, although probably a slower one. Evidently all the other wires are not tasty and petrochemical based.

During the times that the internet was down, the Eufy cams kept recording locally. There were deer, trespassers, and sunsets. All viewable after we got the internet back. Nobody attempted to steal the quite expensive but useless anywhere other than this one project hardware that sat on the hill (think manufactured specifically shaped beams and glass usable to nobody but this project.)

Anyway, the hills have Wi-Fis, and other than a lost battle with mice and someone’s inability to close a lid, the project has seen -11F (-23c) lows and 108F (42c) ranges and survived. It makes me start to revisit my opinions about the nuclear blast and the refrigerator in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

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Paul E King

Paul King started with GoodAndEVO in 2011, which merged with Pocketables, and as of 2018 he's evidently the owner. He lives in Nashville, works at a film production company, is married with two kids. Facebook | Twitter | Donate | More posts by Paul | Subscribe to Paul's posts

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