Decentralized tech is going to be the future. Now if we can only figure out how to not get squashed down by the powers that be.
 p2p social network https://scuttlebutt.nz
Priorities priorities priorities.
Andre Staltz gives an approximate deadline of 5-10 years, or we're doomed.
We should be focusing on tech that makes aerospace less costly. The benefits will extend beyond a free & open network. There is good science and theory on ways to reduce costs in aerospace, it's an engineering/business problem at this point.
You are also not going to be deploying your own balloon Internet.
2. Satellites can, in theory, run a mesh network among themselves.
3. Decentralized doesn't mean you own one. Decentralized means there are multiple agents and none have a commanding control of the system. I don't need to be able to deploy my own internet balloon to belong to a decentralized system. Cheap internet balloons will allow smaller companies to work on the "last mile" problem, further decentralizing the network.
4. Decentralized doesn't mean free as in beer, free from commercial interests, or free from laws and regulations.
Demand is also limited. Not a great combination, so your vision on multiple low cost satellite service providers isn't likely to come true.
There are only a few satellite owners you can buy broadband service from, not a 100. It's capital intensive and past bankruptcies don't bode well for new entrants.
Satellites can and do run satellite to satellite comms, a "mesh" if you like, but it increases latency.
Neither are balloons likely to be a viable long term solution.
None of this addresses the big point, which is the backhaul, the transit networks, the big networks which knit together all of the smaller community networks and make them more useful.
In short: If you make a nice little mesh network in your small town (New York City, say) you still haven't solved the problem of getting access to websites in Los Angeles, let alone Doha.
Nobody talks much about that. Probably because it isn't possible for that to be decentralized or open in any meaningful sense, and it's certainly impossible for hobbyists to build it.
What you pay for for broadband in the home is:
1) last mile connection (expensive to install)
2) bribes (sorry, "franchise fees")
3) advertising to maintain the illusion of competition
4) customer support to help you deal with your anger and cancel/activate you when you switch between various shitty providers to maintain the illusion of competition
1) It creates a huge barrier to entry because new ISPs have a hard time getting any name recognition.
2) Newpapers, radio stations, and television stations probably wouldn't want to say anything bad about telephone or cable providers. Imagine the phone call an NBC TV station would get if it attacked Comcast. That advertising is a good chunk of money.
3) Advertising is rolled into the PUC-approved "cost of doing business" and the cable or telephone companies get to add their profits on top of that.
This is accomplished by adding a price metric to the routing protocol so that packets are routed along the best and cheapest paths.
So if you notice that a certain neighborhood has bad service, you can set up some kind of connection to it and sell into that network to make a profit. No advertising. The end users will only notice their internet access getting cheaper and or better.
Right now they're restricted by last mile costs, but otherwise they're incentivized to simply provide the fastest bandwidth to the most people, as their revenue simply scales with internet usage as a whole.
We'll still need big orgs to take care of those undersea cables, for now at least; but even with that still out of reach for hobbyists or community projects, the situation can already be much better than what is being forced on us.
On another note, if you are using p2p tech like scuttlebutt and DAT and Beaker browser then just having good neighbourhood and city wide meshes will already be a YUUUGE boon :D since they share data locally, and for a lot of uses you don't really need access to servers across the oceans
The decentralized future is going to be a lot more efficient, a lot more reliable, and even faster.
2. feed it with a few links to the central net, but mostly transit the data locality
3. wait until ISPs goes out of business
4. plug isolated nets into new dark fiber lying around.
Also a shame they are not using much better tech (proper mesh protocols like CJDNS), which is already available and successfully deployed.
People are usually impressed just looking at the network map https://www.freifunk-karte.de/
To address CJDNS, it’s a project that inspired a lot of people, but it’s not actually used for internet access. It’s mostly used by people who are connecting to it over their existing ISPs. This is because it is not good at finding efficient routes. People trying to set up an efficient network will use distance vector protocols like Babel or Batman. We have some patches to Babel that enable our price based routing. To my knowledge CJDNS is not used by any mesh networks actually providing people with internet access.
Why people connect to CJDNS over their ISPs, I’m not sure, but who am I to judge what people do in their spare time. My guess is that it’s easier than actually doing the work of setting up a real network but they can still feel like they are part of a “mesh network”.
What do you mean by "internet access"? If you mean access to the "commercial internet" then I assure you a lot of CJDNS peers provide gateways to the "clearnet", as they like to call it, and traffic gets routed to it when needed.
A lot of the nodes are connected over existing infrastructure because infrastructure is hard; but yet there are already several dozens of thousands of wireless mesh nodes running CJDNS. For one example of a network (that is not over existing ISPs): https://www.freifunk-karte.de/ and I'm sure you can google for more. The CJDNS project clearly promotes setting up wireless mesh over going with your existing infra.
I believe the flexibility to be part overlay part independent at the same time is a powerful boon to the project actually. Perhaps that's why there are 100s of thousands of CJDNS nodes around the globe?
Regarding routing, CJDNS uses "source routing" which has various advantages. All the satisfied nodes running CJDNS don't seem to be complaining about the routing efficiency.... BATMAN is superior when nodes are actually changing location (i.e. mobile mesh networks), which is not the intended use-case here (CJDNS nodes are at fixed locations and peering connectiongs are set up manually by exchanging keys out-of-band). Also BATMAN is only a routing protocol whereas CJDNS does address allocation and cryptographic peer auth as well, and the routing protocol can actually be changed anyway.
And it seems to be working just fine without cryptocurrency being involved. Call me naive but I think it's possible to motivate people without money.
In this case "internet access" refers to access to the big backbones of ISPs that allow CJDNS peers to exchange data. If you don't have an ISP to connect you up to the larger networks a CJDNS peer will not be able to send any data anywhere.
Or how does CJDNS send data across the transatlantic fibre without an ISP?
But anyway, access to the commercial internet and sending data over the transatlantic obviously need "normal" ISPs, but as others have noted below (replies to https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16135626) that's not the "big issue".
I think we are there now but the people who were interested in mesh have lost interest.
Buying one megabit of uplink at current market rate is typically less than a dollar from upstream providers.
Contention ratio of Uk broadband.
You can buy commercial Internet uplink and link up your neighbours for cheaper than broadband ratios. Digging fibre in the ground is fairly expensive but gives more stable connection and most bandwidth. A cheaper route is to go Wifi mesh networking but on normal wifi access points one radio per access point you get halving of bandwidth for each mesh hop. If you go open source mesh with 3 radios per AP you can get better bandwidth.
Nasa study of Mesh networks. Mesh hops vs bandwith
Your point still stands though. That means if 1 mbit cost $1 then it costs $0.04/customer.
The real cost is in deploying the wires and countless studies have shown the ROI on that, especially given the exorbitant rates, is typically 5 years or less per hookup. Can you imagine how much Comcast etc have made per house they’ve run coax to? The ROI must be mind boggling.
Overnight government would be able to mandate universal service availability, and count on citizens having Internet access. That would mean being able to close physical government offices and let the clerks work from home. Billions saved right off the bat. It would mean less spying, as municipal people are not going to just bend over when the feds show up, they will actually demand to see a warrant - unlike any large American company who derives large amounts of their own income from being granted government contracts. It would mean no ridiculous upcharging for "business" connections (just like we don't charge restaurants more for tap water because they make soup out of it and sell it). It would also mean no more asynchronous connections which only exist to prop up the expensive business connections. It would mean an ISP that serves as infrastructure that improves society in a multitude of ways rather than a luxury good fed off of by a greedy tick that was lucky enough to hold exclusive sway over pole access rights and telecom rights when their single biggest competitor, the Internet, appeared on the scene.
Letting companies like Comcast, Time Warner, etc run ISPs is sheer madness. They are media distribution companies. Their empires were built on that. And the Internet makes media distribution worthless. Any clever kid can run circles around them and provide a better service. And we let them have their hands on its throat?
Unless you're ready to run for local office and champion municipal/coop internet, or find incumbents who support your cause, you will not succeed.
> Any clever kid can run circles around them and provide a better service. And we let them have their hands on its throat?
A bit of an exaggeration of course; running an ISP is hard, and the margins are razor thin unless you have regulatory capture. It can be done, but that's a governing issue. See what I said above.
TL;DR Run for office. Fix the problem.
I think you misunderstood me. I did not mean to say that being an ISP was something a clever kid could pull off. I meant to say that a clever kid can run circles around the established players when it comes to media distribution. That clever kid can upload whatever media needs to be distributed to a CDN and it's done. The entrenched players have to manage maintaining a byzantine maze of distribution agreement contracts that they entered into long ago, invent ways in which they will prevent becoming a "simple dumb pipe" (as they call it), manage how the availability of the content will affect the success of their other media properties, etc.
And you are correct about the municipalities being the ones who granted those exclusive contracts originally, and that is where change needs to happen. And it has in a few places! A friend of mine works for a municipal ISP in Florida. But.... each and every single municipality that has ever tried to go that route faces years and years of protracted litigation. Comcast and their compatriots litigate vigorously in their attempt to prevent the establishment of municipal ISPs. Many municipalities simply can't afford to spend 10 years and $100 million just to get out of a contract they foolishly agreed to that gave exclusive rights to providing telecom services to a company for 99 years (a common arrangement).
I have no idea what the average consumer pays their residential provider but I would estimate it’s over $100/mo on average. It seems like it would be fairly easy to get return in 5 years. These are numbers for fiber.
They forced AT&T's hand, which began rolling out their service in the city about a year later. AT&T charges $70 or more, I think.
It's cheaper to do this stuff than the big companies let on. The problem is that they can make even _more_ money investing in other services and products, like cellular and cable TV. Worse, fiber eats into their cable TV profits and jeopardizes their wet dreams about 5G cellular data plans.
 It's $40 + $10 router rental, or $50 if you have your own router. But $50 for the service alone isn't promotional, whereas the $40 + rental is technically promotional and might become $50 + rental down the road.
Thanks for this. I've been wondering about this for the last few years now. Guess the idea isn't completely nuts and will have to research further.
Source: did this for 10 years.
What do you think of something like Hyperboria (https://hyperboria.net/) which is based on CJDNS, so there's no "ISP" really, but each peer sort of is a very small very local service provider to whoever they decide to peer with.
I was imagining some peers will charge other peers money to act as their gateway to the public network. Or maybe a bunch of people will pool their money and buy commercial network access
WISP networks are built with point-to-point links: the appropriate technology for delivering good QoS. Since radios and antennas are extremely cheap this is the way to go.
The rock you'll flounder upon is that you need to buy a pretty beefy connection to serve any number of customers (even 1). The cost of said connection in most places is quite high. This places a lower bound on the number of paying customers you need to break even. That number is somewhere around 100. This is before you factor in the cost of customer support, schlepping around on people's roofs, finding and negotiating leases on repeater locations, etc. The number of places where there is not a better competitive offering available to customers (or a high likelihood one will show up before you recoup your investment) is low.
Current wireless technology (and according to Shannon, any wireless technology we can imagine) has quite a low upper bound to throughput -- much lower than is achievable with coax for example. So you can't complete on speed with anyone except DSL and Satellite.
Also, if you live in a nice permissive place and you get all set up, don't be surprised if Comcast techs cut all of your lines and claim they didn't realize they shouldn't have done that. It wouldn't be the first time.
Proliferating internet access has been a big public/private partnership, and therefore we need NN to ensure that it continues to serve the public good. We shuld be fighting for the "public" part of the public/private partnership to not get fleeced.
Does the benefit gained by society by having the service be ubiquitous amount to something greater than the damage done by the elimination of competition? If the answer is yes, then it should be made a public utility. I don't know how anyone could honestly argue that the private oligopoly setup we have now is so valuable to preserve that it provides more value to society than would ubiquitous Internet access. Just the fact that we could actually write laws on the assumption that people have Internet access would provide such tremendous benefit and enable us to get rid of some much duplicated junk as to be monumental.
They are all playing in this space because they want the customers and revenue, but it took a long time for the gentlemen's agreements between the firms to start.
The installers for Comcast (the most recent to enter our building) were super professional, friendly and did a great job.
Hope other cities are able to fight down the exclusive contracts etc.
So help me God I will get involved in local government if for no other reason that to advocate for municipal broadband and requiring fiber be laid for all new construction.
This is only true in the presence of healthy competition, which is generally absent in US broadband. Broadband providers tend to point to their (at most) single competitor as evidence of a competitive market.
It doesn't take collusion to fix prices if you only have one competitor.
Per latency, my ping when playing games was sub 20 (but to be fair the servers were in California).
It's very, very unlikely to come back.
Obviously there are better (commercial, prepackaged) mesh network solutions
Have you heard of CJDNS? or BATMAN?
Hyperboria is multiple sizeable deployments of CJDNS. Maybe you heard of Freifunk in Germany, with over 40k access points so far.
Fiber has its place, as has wireless.
The answer is people. You need people to "provide a route to the Internet". To answer phones. To fix things when they break.
Running an ISP is far from glamorous and far from just leaning back and skimming the profit.
1. 'Big Telecom', has all the problems of publicly traded large companies: Focus on creating shareholder value, complexity, inertia, etc. This is inefficiency due to objectives and organization.
2. Payoff horizon. It's easy/cheap to buy technology and set up a network for today, but are they charging enough to update all the hardware in a few years when technology improves? In Canada, even with aggressive government subsidization, multiple attempts to create new independent wireless carriers(Fido, Wind) have failed when they could not afford to grow their network beyond initial investments.
It'll be very interesting to see how this develops and find out whether 1 trumps 2: will small community organizations be sufficiently efficient, or will they struggle with faster obsolescence than expected and be forced to acquire more capital.
Having worked for a small gov't agency in NYC and personally witnessed all sorts of waste and incompetence, I'm a bit skeptical that this is at all possible. I don't think efficiency or cost-effectiveness is not something that comes to my mind when someone talks about gov't services.
And while it's true that government bureaucracies tend to drift toward inefficiency, private monopolies are very similar. Comcast is basically so bad that they're unfixable.
They have incentive to keep things running well and efficiently because well it's you and your friends and neighbours!
At some point it has to connect to the Internet, meaning I have to buy some sort of connection. How's that work?
I mean it it quite easy nowadays to set up a network both wired and wireless to share among neighbours. I did that. But lastly, it needs to be connected to the internet/first mile. If I can negotiate enough numbers and do the fiber laying work myself, how can i get the internet connection at wholesale?
Give me a shout for more details.
We could set up our own internet, and I think we should, unfortunately this would be illegal as the large telecoms have lobbied their way into legislation ensuring that people pay, what is essentially a private tax, on their utilities.
If you are worried about the governed not keeping up, let the government put in the fiber and have somebody else light it.
Though I'm skeptical at how accurate their maps are. It SAID that another provider covered my area, but when I called them that turned out to not be the case.
The difference is relevant from economic, moral and design perspectives.
In many places, yes, because the spectrum is limited.
There is much more competition in these markets and plenty of ISPs (e.g. CenturyLink) are also Teir 1 providers in markets where they do not act as an ISP.
No, they are cheaper because the local monopolists/duopolists can charge the customers through the nose, as they don't have any alternative. Any form of competition leads to a reduction in costs for the consumer.
In addition, stuff like eight-digit compensations (Comcast: 37.5M $ for the CEO alone, https://www1.salary.com/Stephen-B-Burke-Salary-Bonus-Stock-O...), marketing (TV ads, but also sponsoring, e.g. Comcast/ESL) or the costs associated with running e.g. decades-old mainframe stuff for CRM/financial systems or simply maintaining even older copper lines vs brand new fibre stuff sums up to quite a bunch of money - humble local ISPs don't have all that crap and therefore can pass on the savings to customers.