Comcast Triple Play in multi-unit residence: advice sought [Telecom]

[This message asks a lot of "Consumer Reports" type questions about a proposed Comcast bundled installation in my personal residence -- but I think it's mostly "Telecom" in character (and, any responses might be useful to others as well).]

My wife & I are currently planning a "Triple Play" (i.e., bundled cable, Internet & multiple phone line) installation/conversion in a sprawling

4-unit family residence a month or so from now. Any advance words of wisdom or advice for us about any aspects of this will be appreciated. [Please pardon lengthy message below; it's partly for me to get some of the major concerns down for my own education as well.]

Our situation is a mostly one-story 3500 sq ft house on the Stanford campus that includes an owner's section plus 3 self-contained studio-type rental units under one roof (the rental units are typically occupied by grad students or visitors on university fellows programs).

Present connectivity includes Comcast cable TV with 4-way signal splitting; 5 hardwired phone lines (3 into the rental units, plus separate "residential" and "home office" lines for the owners); and AT&T DSL service on one of the owner lines.

The DSL (which has only about 400KB data rate due to excessive distance from the nearest CO) comes in through an elderly Cayman router, one of whose 4 Ethernet ports is cabled via Cat 5 to a centrally positioned Apple Extreme base station. This base station then provides an in-house WIfI LAN to multiple laptops (mostly Macs) in all four parts of the house (it does get a bit overloaded at times). Some other misc Ethernet stuff (printers, etc) is hung off the other three Ethernet ports of the Cayman.

We're hoping to convert essentially _all_ of this connectivity into the Comcast bundle, including dumping the DSL service after a testing and transition period. So, a variety of questions come up:

1) Which of the Comcast-suggested modems should we purchase for the Comcast Internet service? We're leaning toward a NetGear model -- a good choice???

2) I assume this modem will then provide both a WiFi LAN throughout the house, plus some Ethernet ports which can drive the existing Cat 5 cabling that exists through most of the house. This WiFI and the Ethernet ports will then all form one big Ethernet network -- right?

3) So, should we maybe have the three tenants mostly use the Comcast WiFI LAN, while we keep the existing Airport Extreme (direct cabled into the Comcast modem) as a separate password-protected Airport LAN for the owner's family's Macs?

We're not particularly worried about security vis-a-vis the tenants; but we also don't normally do any direct file sharing with any of the tenants' machines either. We might separate things this way partly for redundancy, partly just to keep our family traffic separate.

Or is there a better way?

4) If we do keep the Airport Extreme in the system, should it be configured so that it's handing out NAT addresses to the laptops that talk to it? Or operated in bridge mode, so that the cable modem and the Airport Extreme LAN are all united into one single Ethernet network?

5) Because of the 4-way splitting of the cable TV signal, we currently have a powered cable TV amplifier at the point where the current cable from Comcast enters the house. Will the Internet signals pass through that amplifier? -- or will they have to be split off and/or bypassed around it somehow?

6) Part of the overall deal is also supposed to be converting at least three, maybe four of the existing 5 phone lines over to VOIP, so as to get substantially reduced cost and and unified billing (might even drop phone service for the tenants, and let them live with the individual cell phones they generally come to us with, or with VOIP they set up on their own).

We have no direct experience of any kind with this Internet phone technology -- any advice and counsel will be appreciated.

7) Cellphone signal levels are marginal at our location for all the major carriers, though this is supposed to improve very soon with a new Distributed Service Antenna going in. But if we were to nonetheless acquire one of these Internet connected $250 to $300 "femtocell" units from our family cellphone carrier (Verizon), would this unit also serve cellphones from other carriers that our tenants might have?

And if so, would using that connectivity incur any kind of special "roaming" or similar charges, either for us, or for them?

8) Besides all the above, anything else we should be asking ourselves?

Thanks much for any assistance . . .

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