Acceptable use of our public network

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Why we have these policies

We need to make sure that we:

  • Are legally protected
  • Do not have to spend time policing members' behavior
  • Can offer a usable network for the convenience of our members

These guidelines are intended to keep our network functional and us out of legal trouble.

We ask that you abide by these policies in order to allow us to achieve these goals. If you do not abide by them, your use of the network, and/or of our entire space, may be revoked. You agreed to these policies by signing your membership and/or rental agreement. We reserve the right to alter these policies at any time, and to ask you to change your network behavior if something about it is causing problems for us or any other members, even if it might seem to be strictly permitted---we're trying to make sure that everyone can communicate, and that we don't have to spend a lot of time dealing with it.

If you have any questions about how to be a good neighbor, or you'd like advice on how to put your particular device on the network, please ask IT. We're here to help.

General considerations


You are expected to honor our privacy policy, which includes not intercepting communications not intended for you, not disrupting others' communications, and so forth.

This also includes not trying to connect to machines for which you have no authorization. Such attempts, or use of scanning tools to discover such machines, is prohibited. If you'd like to know how the network works, please don't look like you're attacking it---just ask instead.


The network is run on a best-effort basis. This means that we will make every effort to keep it up at all times---the Asylum depends on it for its own operations as well, after all---but we cannot make any guarantees about its availability. If you have some business need for an absolutely-reliable network, you should arrange to pay someone for that service. We are not in that business.


You are expected to use reasonable shared-bandwidth behavior.

This means not continuously using large amounts of the shared bandwidth. We would like to do this on the honor system and not have to enforce limits. That means:

  • No unattended BitTorrent. (If you'd like to torrent down a Debian release and then turn it off, that's okay, but don't leave it serving after you're done.)
  • Don't be a Skype supernode. (Meaning, don't let Skype run in the background all the time.)
  • Nothing that could cause the RIAA or MPAA to serve us papers. (No violation of copyrights: don't torrent a movie.)
  • Nothing that could cause us to have to handle a DMCA takedown order. (Again, no violation of copyright: don't set up a warez site.)

If you know you're going to have to schlurp down something truly enormous, try to throttle it yourself, using client-side traffic shaping. ("rsync --bwlimit" is one approach; other protocol-agnostic shapers exist for Linux at least.) Please ask IT for suggestions.

As a rule of thumb, expect that our total available bandwidth is equivalent to a low-to-medium-end cable-modem connection (because it is a cable-modem connection). But unlike your connection at home, this one is shared by dozens if not hundreds of people. Please do your high-volume downloading at home, and not here. If you live in a community that has FiOS (meaning not Somerville), you probably have an order of magnitude more bandwidth just for yourself than we do for our entire building. Please use common sense.

Wireless network

All members, renters, and short-term guests are welcome to use our wireless network, as long as you respect some simple guidelines. Ask another member or the front desk for the passphrase.

No private wireless access points are allowed

Exceptions are only with prior approval from IT, and only if we can ensure these conditions:

  • Exact physical location is known (good enough to describe to someone, over the phone, "go there and unplug that")
  • Admin password and IP address known to us, and remotely manageable, including turning off all RF emitters completely

Wired network

In general, we don't offer any sort of wired network for anyone. It's far too much work to install or maintain, and can encourage overuse of our bandwidth.

If you absolutely need wired Ethernet and none of the wired-to-wireless alternatives work for you, you should come talk to us. Most likely what will have to happen is that we will have to hire a contractor (since you can't hire a contractor yourself to work in our space), and you'll also need to pay for your own ISP connection to the outside world (such as $50/mo cable modem from RCN, or something like that). That way, all of your traffic will be off our network, and any failures are a matter between you and a real ISP---we're not a real ISP and can't afford the manpower to be one for third parties. Note that a contractor running wiring in our space has to adhere to surprising and stringent new requirements from Somerville's Inspectional Services Division, and will have to work around a lot of obstacles---such as renter cubicles. It's likely to be quite expensive to do this. In almost every case, you'd be far better off either using our wireless, or using a colocation facility or some other space designed to run computers in an environment that doesn't include arc welders nearby and people walking around everywhere tripping over cables.

Fixed infrastructure

Some of our fixed infrastructure uses a wired network, but that network is not intended for use by members. These uses are typically large, immovable, computer-controlled equipment owned by the Asylum, where running a wire is both feasible and perhaps necessary due to proximity to RF emitters like welders, and where any failures or problems are a matter internal to Asylum staff and don't involve third parties.

If you have equipment of your own that you would like to put on our network, you are very strongly encouraged to use (for example) a USB-to-wifi dongle, or a PCI-to-wifi card. We can offer some advice on how to do that.

If that solution cannot be made to work for you, you may use an access point if and only if it has firmware capable of operating in bridge mode and not as a true access point, and may then wire your equipment to that AP. Many common routers may be reflashed with alternative firmware to enable this; please ask IT.

If you and several of your neighbors would like to share access to some AP you own that is running in client-bridge mode, that's fine with us. This is one way to share the costs of buying the AP (roughly $50, give or take), and also means that only one person in your neighborhood needs to know how to set it up. (Of course, that person is also the person you'll go to if it breaks, and not us.) If you do this, note that "neighbor" means that any wires you run do not cross any firelanes, hallways, and so forth, and you must make sure any wires aren't run in a way that will annoy the building inspector---please ask IT first what this means.

You may not at any time plug or unplug anything on our network without prior authorization from IT

If you run a craft area that has a wired drop, you may manage that drop as you see fit, and those using that space should consult the craft lead about using the network there. If you own or lease hardware to the Asylum that has a hardwired drop, you may plug and unplug your hardware from that drop. If you are neither of these types of people, you may not touch anything in the wired network without prior approval from IT. Absolutely no exceptions.


You may not run any servers here which rely on people being able to make unsolicited inbound connections. Not only do we not want the bandwidth, you also simply can't bind the port--- you are behind a NAT. You may run server-like software which works by first establishing an outbound connection somewhere, but that "server" must be intermittent, low-bandwidth, respectful of the rest of our network, and absolutely must not host any copyrighted content at all unless you personally hold that copyright or can demonstrate some Creative Commons, copyleft, or similar allowed use of the content. For example, if you have some device which might occasionally send an email elsewhere with its status, that's fine. Running a warez site, on the other hand, is absolutely prohibited, even if you could do so without inbound connections.

Doing things that expose us to legal liability (such as hosting copyrighted content, running a warez server, etc) will result in the immediate disconnection of your server, as will soaking all of our bandwidth for extended periods of time. Flagrant violation may result in termination of your access to our space (from us) and possible legal action (from others).

If you have any questions about what is appropriate, please ask IT. It would be a good idea to talk to IT beforehand so we know what you're doing, because it saves us a lot of time if we don't have to hunt people down. We may also be able to suggest better alternatives, or even help you set it up.

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