How to Build Your Own ISP

This was written a while ago when I was back in high school, some information may be outdated. If you spot any errors, please let me know and I will update it.

This is also meant to be an overview of how the internet works, and how one would setup a virtual BGP network on a linux machine. The exact commands and configuration may vary depending on the setup.

How the Internet Works

When you look up something on Google, is your computer connecting to the Cloud? Are your favorite movies and TV shows stored up high in the clouds? Well, cloud usually means ‘someone else’s computer’. In the case of Google, cloud are Google’s massive data centers. Your movie and TV shows are stored in physical disks in enormous data centers that we call “cloud” today, and if you have an iPhone with iCloud backup, your phone is backed up to servers in Apple’s data centers.

But how does your device connect to other people’s computers? I’m sure you all know it’s with the internet, but how exactly does that work? Does your Internet Service Provider (the company that gives your home internet or your phone’s wireless provider) have a line that goes directly from your home to Google’s data center? Well, not quite; the cable from your home or from your 4G/5G towers connects to your ISP’s data center. In the datacenter, they have connections to all the other networks(i.e., other ISPs, companies, etc.) on the internet, either directory, or indirectly via peering or internet eXchange points. I will elaborate further on that.

Every connection on the internet originates from an IP address. For example, your phone has an IP address, and your devices in your home that are connected to the internet also have an IP address. An IP Address is like a street address. When you connect to websites on the internet, it’s almost like sending mail to another person’s house or a corporation’s address. You will learn more about that later aswell.

So when you look up something on Google, your device sends the request from its IP address to Google’s server at the IP address It will go through other devices, like your router, your ISP’s router, and Google’s routers, until it reaches Then Google’s server will send the response back to your device’s IP address.

But how does the ISP know where is? Does Google just have a bunch of cables connecting its data center to other ISPs?

How Your ISP Connects to The Internet

Well, Google does not have a bunch of wires each going to a different network like your ISP. That would be too many wires, too costly, and too difficult to maintain. Instead, Google connects to Internet eXchange Points (IXP), a location where multiple networks connect. Companies usually have connections to one or more Tier-1 network(s)(networks that can connect to every other network on the internet with peering agreements.)

A peering agreement is an agreement between two networks to connect to reach a more extensive network. Networks of similar size usually do this to eliminate any need for payment as it is mutually beneficial. For smaller networks connecting to a bigger network like a Tier-1 ISP, called “transit”, and usually incurs a cost for the smaller network receiving said “transit”. Different networks can have their own peering policy, such as open peering, which allows any network to peer with them. There’s also selective peering policy, where they only allow some networks to peer with them, usually networks of similar size. You learn learn more about internet peering on Wikipedia, and internet transit aswell.

What makes up a network? Two things, an ASN and IP prefix(s).

An ASN is an identifying number (like a license plate) that network routers use with BGP to identify each other. Most large companies, like Google (AS15169), Amazon (AS16509), and Meta (AS32934), all own an ASN. Every time you visit a website, your ISP sends a packet from its ASN to the website’s ISP’s ASN. More on Wikipedia.

An IP Address is like a street address. When you connect to websites on the internet, it’s almost like sending mail to another person’s house or a corporation’s address. You probably have a home IP address that comes from your Internet Service Provider’s pool of IP addresses, which we call an IP “block” or IP “prefix.”. You can learn more about IP Addresses on Wikipedia.

How exactly do two networks connect? You probably can’t just wire a cable between two routers and expect it to magically work. This is where BGP (Border Gateway Protocol) comes in: BGP is a protocol that helps facilitate communications between two networks to exchange routes(IP prefixes). In short, two networks use BGP to tell each other what IP addresses can be reached via them. You can read more about BGP on Wikipedia.

IPv4, IPv6, Whats The Difference

There are two IP versions, IPv4 and IPv6. IPv4 is probably what you think of when you think about an IP address: something like “”. IPv4 addresses can range from to, which leaves you with 4,294,967,296 possible IP addresses. As the internet became more and more popular, everyone’s home began to have its own IP address. Unfortunately, the “over-allocation” of addresses has resulted in a shortage of IPv4 addresses.

This is where IPv6 comes in: an IPv6 address has more possible combinations due to a longer address size and the use of hexadecimal characters. Here’s an example:


This address is clearly much longer than the previously mentioned IPv4 addresses (i.e. and as a result, can have many more combinations. Now, each character can be a number (1-9) or a letter (a-f), making each character much more meaningful than with IPv4. IPv6 addresses have so many combinations, there’s more addresses than individual grains of sand on Earth.

Humans have used all of the available IPv4 addresses. According to Google, 39.48% of users connecting to Google are using IPv6 as of May 14, 2022. And as of Jan 2011, IANA (the authority on IP addresses) has ran out of IPv4 addresses to distribute to companies like RIPE NCC. More on IPv4 exhaustion here.

You can Build Your Own ISP

That’s correct! You can build your own network on the internet, along with your own AS number and IP Prefix. You can connect your devices to it and browse the internet with your own IP addresses.

Why would you build your own ISP?

  • Learning: Well, it is a great way to learn computer networking, especially if you’re interested in getting a job in the tech field.
  • Networking: There is also a whole community of hobbyist network operators out there, allowing you to network with other people in the field and make new friends.
  • IPv6 Access: If your ISP does not provide IPv6, you can use your network’s IPv6 address to browse the web with IPv6. You can also offer your friends and family with IP addresses to use.
  • Cheaper IP Addresses: If you’re planning on running a hosting company or something that uses a lot of IP addresses, running your network would also drive down the costs of renting individual IP addresses from another company.

Getting an ASN and a Prefix

To run your own ISP, you will need a few things, mainly internet resources from a LIR and internet transit from a provider.

An ASN and an IP Range

You can get an ASN and an IP range from a LIR, below are a few LIRs.

Server Provider

(Optional if you’re in the RIPE Service Region)

If you’re in the RIPE service region, you can ignore this step if you want to set up your network from your home. But you can also set it up from a server somewhere else like a cloud provider. If you’re not in the RIPE service region, you will need to have a server in the RIPE region. Below is a list of server providers in the RIPE region that also provides transit.

Transit Provider

You will need two networks to upstream your network to access the rest of the internet and have justification for an ASN.

Below are a few free transit providers that I recommend. If you live in the RIPE service region, you can run your whole network directly from your home and connect to two of the transit providers below.

Setting Up BIRD on Your Server

Setting up your network Before we start, let’s make sure we have everything ready. • A RIPE ASN • A RIPE IPv6 Prefix • Transit Providers (If you want to run your ISP from your home) • VPS Provider with transit (If you want to run your ISP from a server)

For the following tutorial I will be using Debian 11 in a Vultr VPS with Vultr as my upstream.

Vultr (and some other transit providers) requires you to provide them with a LoA (Letter of Authorization), allowing them to transit your IP Prefix and your ASN. This can be done easily via, plugging in your ASN’s information and Vultr’s (AS20473) information.

We will use 65535 as our ASN in the following documentation and 2001:DB8:1234::/48 as our prefix.

After you log into the server via ssh, we need to install bird2. Bird2 is a software that communicates with other routers using BGP. (Note: If you have firewall enabled, please allow 179/tcp)

ufw allow 179 apt install bird2 We will also make a dummy interface where we will route your prefix to. (Note: If you are setting this device up as a router at your home, replace dummy0 with your LAN interface, and you can omit the last line with ‘pre-up’) Edit `/etc/network/interfaces` and add the following lines

iface dummy0 inet6 static address 2001:DB8:1234::/48 pre-up ip link add dummy0 type dummy

After bird2 is installed, we will edit its configration file at `/etc/bird/bird.conf`

log syslog all;

router id;
# Replace with your VPS's public IPv4 address

protocol device {
        scan time 5;

protocol direct {
        interface "dummy*";

protocol static
        route 2001:DB8:1234::/48 via yourVMsIPv6AddressHere;

protocol bgp vultr {
        description "Vultr";
        local yourVMsIPv6AddressHere as 65535;
        neighbor 2001:19f0:ffff::1 as 64515;
        multihop 2;
        password "bgpPassword";
        ipv6 {
                import all;
                export filter {
                        if net = 2001:DB8:1234::/48 then accept;

Do birdc configure to apply the changes. And do systemctl enable --now bird2 to ensure it is started and enabled.

You can do birdc show protocol all to check the BGP session, you should see the connection as Established. To test using your own IPv6 address, do ping -i yourOwnIPv6Address

Connect Your Local Devices to Your Network

Connecting your device to your network via a VPN.

A VPN stands for Virtual Private Network, from Wikipedia “A virtual private network extends a private network across a public network and enables users to send and receive data across shared or public networks as if their computing devices were directly connected to the private network.” In short, it allows your device to use the network connection from your VPS.

We will be using the same machine from the last article.

First we install our VPN server, wireguard. apt install wireguard Then we will create a public and private key pair. cd /etc/wireguard wg genkey | tee privatekey | wg pubkey > publickey This will create two files in the wireguard directory, publickey and privatekey. Now we make a wireguard configuration at /etc/wireguard/wg0.conf And fill out the configuration.

PrivateKey = privateKeyHere
Address = 2001:DB8:1234:a::/64
ListenPort = 7777 or any other port

PublicKey = Your device's wireguard publickey
AllowedIPs = 2001:DB8:1234:a:1::/80

Start and Enable that wireguard tunnel via systemctl enable --now wg-quick@wg0 Enable forwarding by uncommenting net.ipv6.conf.all.forwarding in /etc/sysctl.conf and setting it to 1 and restart the server. Also allow port 7777 on your firewall. ufw allow 7777 On your client, create a public and private key, and use the following config.

PrivateKey = ClientPrivatekey
Address = 2001:DB8:1234:a:1::/64

PublicKey = wireguard server's public key
AllowedIPs = ::/0
Endpoint = wireguard server public address:port

Start and Enable that wireguard tunnel via systemctl enable --now wg-quick@wg0

And there you have it, your device connected to the internet from your own network and your own address. Congrats!

If you have any questions, want to change my mind, or literally anything else, please reach out!