I am in rural NJ (no DSL, Cable and 14.4 is fast for us) and have three or four neighbors interested in joining
me in a Wi-Fi/MAN network. Where to start? Do I need permission or a license? What hardware do you recommend? Any examples to learn from? Any and all comments are welcomed. Thanks If you choose a solution that uses unlicensed spectrum (like Wi-Fi in the 2.4 or 5 GHz bands), then you do not need permission or a license. That's precisely how these bands are supposed to be used. Some other fixed broadband wireless access solutions do operate in licensed spectrum, so steer clear of those.
What kind of hardware to use depends upon factors like the distance between your homes, RF-absorbing obstacles in between you (like trees), and whether you can position outdoor antennas for line-of-sight transmission between your homes. I suggest that you read about wireless outdoor routers to get a sense of what these products offer and the questions you'll need to ask. Here are just a few URLs to get you started:
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