New house, confusing ethernet architecture

I'm moving into a house in a couple weeks. It was built in 2005, and it has Cat5e ethernet jacks in most rooms. There are also standard phone jacks. In the basement there's a gigantic wall panel where the ethernet runs all come together. I've never had ethernet jacks before, and so I need to understand the best way to bring a broadband connection into my house and distribute it throughout the house's ethernet wiring. To make matters more complicated, I just found out that AT&T's DSL isn't available in my area due to hitting their capacity limit. In fact, all I can find available seems to be Comcast, and my history with Comcast has been hugely negative (not like AT&T is any better).

I am confused because Comcast seems to indicate that only one access point in the home would be supported. Does my house already take this account, with one coax jack receiving external broadband and somehow distributing it to the ethernet network? How do I make that happen? Or do I need DSL? If so, am I screwed now that AT&T has no more capacity in my area?

I am completely confused and don't even know where to begin... hopefully the original owners leave the manual behind. Thanks for any help.

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  1. You would need your broadband connection near the distribution panel in the basement. You would need a router and possibly a network switch to connect all the jacks.
  2. Thanks. The current family has DSL, but I'm hoping there wouldn't be a problem with using a cable broadband signal. It'll have to be a unique coax run, since the house's coax infrastructure will be used for Directv. So it seems that this broadband signal ends up going into a network switch in the main central wall unit.

    It seems, therefore, that most wall ports are distributed through that network switch.

    It also seems to be the case that I can plug a wireless router into a single ethernet wall port, giving me extra ports for making say, my receiver, Directv box, and Blu-Ray all fully connected in the same room.

    Thanks for any other comments. I obviously am 100% clueless at this sort of thing. I can tinker in my PC, but whole-house wiring is new to me.... thanks.
  3. OP, this isn't really as complex as you might think. The only thing the structured wiring does is centralize all those individual runs at the junction box. So it just comes down to what works best in terms of how to hook it up.

    At a bare minimum you’ll want a switch. Otherwise devices off those runs can’t communicate.

    Now, if the junction box also terminates either a cable or dsl line (quite common), then it might make sense to mount the modem there and use a router (w/ integrated switch) so you can distribute Internet access throughout the home. But you don’t HAVE to. You can place the modem+router anywhere as long as those runs are at least switched. In fact, space limitations may force you to place them OUTSIDE the junction box.

    NOTE: If cable comes into the junction box, it’s usually right off the street. So the signal is always going to be strongest and cleanest at that location. It makes an ideal place for an amplifier should you need one. That might have a bearing on your decision making.

    Finally, if you want wireless, you could use a wireless router (w/ integrated switch). However, that may not be the most practical or ideal location for wireless. Just depends on the situation. It would probably make more sense to distribute your wireless AP(s) throughout the home.

    That’s it. All the structured wiring does is form a convenient place to terminate all those runs. All you really have to do is provide the switching. Beyond that, it’s up to you. Either add a modem+router and wireless AP at the junction box, or anywhere else you want, whatever is most convenient. Obviously if your cable/dsl doesn’t terminate at the junction box, you’ll have to chose somewhere else in the home where it does.
  4. Thanks. I'll be able to get a really good look at what I have next weekend, and hopefully the manual as well. The plan is to use Comcast for broadband internet, Directv for satellite TV, and Vonage for phone. We'll see if I can get this all up and running... thanks.
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