The BBS Corner - Types of Internet Connections

Table of Contents: The most important part of having a Telnet BBS is the physical connection to the Internet. Most people do not realize how important this is. Many wrong decisions can be made when choosing the best way to connect to the Internet for operating a Telnet BBS. The following are some tips on what you need to look for and look out for.

This section will focus on common residential Internet solutions in North America (and possibly in Europe as well). Business solutions (such as T1, etc.) are not covered here, but the same concept applies.

Overview on Internet Connections

An introduction to the concept to Telnet - a process of accessing remote computer systems over the Internet. This overview should teach you the basics of how Telnet works and what you need to start your own successful Telnet BBS.

Inbound Internet to your computer - In a nutshell

Most people use the Internet for E-mail and simple web surfing. They don't know the mechanics behind the Internet. However, when it comes to running a Telnet BBS, you will need to know and understand some basics of how the Internet works.

For starters, you will need to understand inbound connections. Most of the time, a user is concerned about outbound connections. Inbound is a different matter.

Types of IP Addresses

Every computer that is connected to the Internet has it's unique 'phone number'. This 'number' identifies you on the Internet. In technical jargon, this is known as an 'IP address'.

Dynamic IP addressing

Often times, you do not know your computer's IP address. As long as it has an address, most of the time you don't care what the actual address is. Your Internet provider assigns one to your computer automatically when you turn it on or connect it to the Internet (dial-up, broadband or satellite). Most of the time the IP address is assigned dynamically, meaning that a 'random' number is assigned to your computer from a pool of available numbers. This IP address may be only used for a limited amount of time, or for a long period of time ' but this may change at any point in the future, such as a reboot of your computer, the broadband connection, or something else. This type of addressing scheme is typical for most residential Internet connections.

Further Info: Dynamic DNS services

Static IP Addressing

There are instances where the IP address for your connection does not change. These addresses are static and do not change, even if a system is reset. Typically these changed on a very rare basis and only when necessary. These are also quite rare because of the shortage of IP addresses. Typically only businesses and governments have these addresses. Your broadband provider may offer these at a higher cost or if you subscribe to a 'business class' connection.

Network Address Translation by Internet Providers

Inbound Ports

As mentioned above, most people who use the Internet do not need to worry about inbound ports. But with a Telnet BBS inbound ports are very important. You need to know that each common 'service' is assigned a default port number, and if you wish to use a different port for that service that the end user must manually change the 'port number' to obtain use of that service.

Here is a list of common port numbers that a BBS SysOp may need to know for inbound services. Telnet being the most important, defaults to Port 23.

  • FTP - Ports 20 & 21
  • Secure Shell - Port 22
  • Telnet - Port 23
  • SMTP (inbound E-mail) - Port 25
  • Finger - Port 79
  • HTTP (web) - Port 80
  • POP3 outbound E-mail) - Port 110
  • NNTP (Usenet) - Port 119
  • IRC - Ports 6667, 7000, etc.

How to Test for Inbound Ports

Most providers do NOT want you to run ANY services of any kind on residential connections. They would like for you to purchase a "business class" connection at a higher price. While this does give you advantages such as a Static IP address and more inbound ports open, in SOME (or most) cases not all inbound ports are blocked.

You can check to see what ports are available to you by visiting a website to check to see what inbound ports are available. One website I recommend is called Shields Up by GRC (Gibson Research Corporation) Security. This website allows you to check which inbound ports are open or not. Make sure you either hook up your computer DIRECTLY to the cable/DSL modem (or other broadband entry point) or open the port in your home router using Port Forwarding techniques.

Broadband Internet Connections

In the last few years, wired broadband connections such as Cable, DSL and Fiber to the Home (FiOS/U-Verse) are now becoming commonplace. This allows for a connection to the Internet 24 hours a day year-round. Here is a listing of the common connections, their advantages and disadvantages of each kind of connection.

Cable Broadband Internet

Cable TV based broadband Internet is by far the most popular and most common form of high speed Internet. It is plentiful in a number of urban, suburban and even some rural areas. Costs are typically in the $20 to $50 range per month depending on the speed. Most of the time the IP addresses are dynamic. Often times the default Telnet port is open, but other ports such as HTTP and SMTP are blocked on residential services.

Advantages: Relatively low cost, high bandwidth, and plentiful.

Disadvantages:Dynamic IP, some ports may be blocked.

Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) Broadband Internet

DSL connections at one time were relatively common, but in recent years they are less common, as Fiber to the Home (FTTH) and cable broadband have become more common. DSL is typically slower than other broadband options, but is also cheaper and can be attached to an existing copper telephone landline. Costs are $20 to $50 and speed vary. Again, look out for dynamic IP addressing and blocked ports. Some DSL connections are using NAT connections where you do not get a inbound routeable IP address (meaning people cannot access you from outside).

Advantages: Cheaper than Cable.

Disadvantages: Dynamic IP, some ports may be blocked, inbound connections may not be possible.

Fiber To The Home (FTTH) Broadband Internet

Fiber to the Home broadband Internet - marked as FiOS (Verizon) and U-Verse (at&t). This has the advantage of having everything on one high capacity fiber optic cable directly to your home. The advantages are very high bandwidth, the disadvantages are the cost. Typically this is part of a larger package that includes home phone and television, so it is difficult to break down an "Internet-only" price. Not much is known on FTTH regarding inbound connections.

Advantages: Extremely high bandwidth

Disadvantages: Very high cost (bundled with other services). Unknown if ports are blocked or not.

Wireless Broadband Internet

Wireless broadband Internet (meaning wireless from an Internet provider such as Wi-Max, not cellular or Wi-Fi) is a relatively new delivery method for Internet. Though wireless Internet has existed for quite a while, it is now only catching on nationwide. Rural areas that otherwise could not get broadband Internet can now get higher speed service. These methods are usually fairly expensive and relatively low speeds (compared to cable, DSL or FTTH), but they're faster than dial-up or satellite. I don't know much about the service they provide regarding IP addressing (dynamic, static or NAT). Before you want to run a Telnet BBS, ask a friend to perform an IP address check to determine what kind of IP address they have. Remember, you can't run a BBS on a system that is "NATed" at the ISP level.

Advantages: Higher speed than dial-up, close to DSL speeds.

Disadvantages: Higher price. Not sure if inbound ports are blocked.

Synopsis: Check to see which services are available in your area. Choose which one offers the best "bang for the buck" for price, bandwidth, and availability of inbound ports.

Rural Internet Connections

In rural areas, dial-up Internet service providers are still common. For those who wish to have 'higher speed', many are now using satellite Internet service providers.

Dial-Up Internet Service

Dial-up Internet (analog modem) service will work for Telnet BBS systems. Though your download speeds may have a theoretical maximum of 56 kbps, your upload speed is probably much less than that. That is the key to an Internet based BBS is your upload speed. You may be able to support up to 4 nodes (simultaneous users) on a dial-up connection. There will be some latency (lag) but this is usually tolerable by most users.

The main problem with dial-up Internet providers is that most of they do not want you to stay connected 24/7. Most of them will hang up on you if they don't see activity from your computer for at least 15 minutes. Even if you run a program to keep your connection running, most of them will disconnect you after 24 hours of activity. If they're really monitoring the connection, you may not be able to reconnect without promising them you won't stay connected longer than 24 hours at a time!

Advantages: Cheap and widely available

Disadvantages: Slow and cannot be online for more than 24 hours at a time, dynamic IP address.

Satellite Internet connections

There are several satellite based Internet services, such as DirecWay. These systems allow people who otherwise would not be able to get high speed Internet service any other way (Cable, DSL, etc). There are three major problems with this service.

1. There is a high probability that they system uses "NATed" (network address translation) or "private" IP addresses that don't allow for inbound Internet connections.

2. Upstream bandwidth is typically very slow. Usually upstream bandwidth is about that of a dial-up Internet connection ' or even less! This will slow down the speed at which your users can use your BBS, typically making things crawl.

3. Latency issues with satellite services is probably the worst issue. When a user presses a key on their keyboard, it is transmitted to the BBS and then sent back (called 'echo'). With travel times in the hundreds of milliseconds (as opposed to tens of milliseconds with regular high speed Internet), there is such a delay that your users will be very dissatisfied with the speed they can use your BBS. The speeds can be so slow that your users will not want to use your BBS.

Advantages: Higher speed than dialup

Disadvantages: Very slow uplink speeds, high latency, not good for a Telnet BBS.

Synopsis: If residential broadband connections are not available, dial-up is a viable solution. However, satellite Internet based Telnet BBS systems are highly discouraged.

Using a Home Router for Inbound Connections

If you use a home router to share your Internet connection with other computers in your house, make sure you use a feature called Port Forwarding to send the data from your inbound connection to the computer that has your BBS installed.

Note that the IP address of your inbound connection is NOT the IP address that your home router assigns. Your ISP assigns your inbound IP address. If your BBS computer has an IP address of - this is NOT the outside routeable IP address! If you want to know your computer's real IP address, visit What Is My IP Address and it will tell you your outside routable IP address. Check to see if your ports are actually open and routing correctly using the GRC Security's Shields Up application.

Dynamic IP addressing and Dynamic DNS

Most residential Internet providers do not assign "static" IP addresses and assign dynamic IP addresses from a pool of IP addresses they have assigned to them. Your address may change daily, weekly, monthly, or even longer!

The problem is twofold - your users would like to have some address that never changes, and they don't want to learn a string of numbers. Something more catchy (like the name of your BBS) would work. That's why a service called Dynamic DNS was created. Check out the Dynamic DNS Services page here on the BBS Corner for more details.

Further Info: Dynamic DNS services

FidoNet via the Internet

For BBS SysOps who want to connect to the Fidonet Messaging backbone, there are methods to do this via the Internet using a background process. Check out the FidoNet BBS Network page for details

Further Info: FidoNet BBS Network

The Next Steps

Now that you have a background on Internet connections and how to use them, here are the next steps you should take in setting up a Telnet based BBS: