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New York City Neighbors Build Cheaper Way to Connect to Web (wsj.com)
683 points by psim1 47 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 202 comments



Shameless plug: My company Althea (https://althea.net) is making router firmware that makes it easy to people to set up incentivized mesh networks in their communities. It allows routers to pay each other for bandwidth which means that everyone hosting a node earns money for the packets they forward.

We have 2 networks live, one in rural Oregon and one in Medellin, Colombia. Also, 4 more networks people are currently pre-registering subscribers for in their communities, for example https://althea.net/hilltop.


It is quite shameless, here is an awesome volunteer run basic service project, and this is a Blockchain rent-seeking VC startup.

Ironically I went back to the 2015 thread and found much the same "shameless plug", minus the Blockchain.


> It is quite shameless, here is an awesome volunteer run basic service project, and this is a Blockchain rent-seeking VC startup.

You're implying that there is something shameful with providing a market for connectivity which allows for people who can't afford to work for free to participate. What is shameful about this?


Taking attention from a free community project to market your for profit company certainly isn't a purely altruistic thing to do.


Taking attention? I have enough attention for both. Who cares if it isn't altruistic? 99.9% of human interaction isn't, and most of it is positive.


theres still a monthly fee for free. weird right.


"The 100k investment they took on is peak rent-seeking," said the commenter on news.ycombinator.com


Shameless and full of snake oil this time lol


Replacing few freeloader nodes in a volunteer network with a whole rent-seeking company. Pretty sad.


Love the project! Why does my intuition suggest big ISPs are going to try to regulate this out of existence in the US. It's depressing.


It's already illegal twice over.

Anyone "forwarding" packets from a connection to an ISP is almost certainly in breach of contract.

Amateur packet radio service regulations state that you may not use it for applications that are available over commercial services.


> Anyone "forwarding" packets from a connection to an ISP is almost certainly in breach of contract.

You can buy resaleable backhaul it's just a drag and expensive. NYC mesh gets free resaleable backhaul and it's a key thing for them.

> Amateur packet radio service regulations state that you may not use it for applications that are available over commercial services.

point to point long distance antennas on free spectrum are commercially usable and more than adequate https://www.ui.com/products/#airmax


>NYC mesh gets free resaleable backhaul and it's a key thing for them.

I feel like this is the key differentiator between community mesh projects that succeed and those that don't.

At the end of the day, without backhaul you're just saturating a few donors' residential bandwidth.


I thought mesh networks were peer-to-peer? If people's connections to the internet are single pre-determined nodes, isn't that more like mini ISPs?


In any given mesh of peers, or for example the NYC mesh, suppose I am a mesh client with no ISP. How do I get internet without using another mesh client's ISP connection?

Edit: can't reply because rate limited or something. My point is that relying on good will doesn't scale.


I thought mesh is supposed to involve hopping from neighbor to neighbor - not everyone directly connected to an ISP. What is the difference then besides that it is volunteer-run with donated bandwidth?


While many neighbors could be connected directly to a traditional ISP, in a hilly/mountainous area, only a few nodes may be able to connect directly to an ISP, and this will connect indirectly accessible nodes to the Internet via only intermediary nodes. This is not theoretical - the test network in Oregon does this.


There's payment (out and also in), so it doesn't rely (entirely) on good will - running a connectivity-important node can even net you payments!


> NYC mesh gets free resaleable backhaul

Why/how is it free? How much is it typically? Do all/most cities have "backhaul" easily available? Isn't backhaul owned by ISPs as well and basically like a fat pipe?

A barrage of questions, but I'm quite interested!


> Why/how is it free? How much is it typically? Do all/most cities have "backhaul" easily available? Isn't backhaul owned by ISPs as well and basically like a fat pipe?

Sometimes but not always, the Tier 2 internet market is acutally quite competitive and usually you can get fiber from a couple of providers within 50 miles of any location in the US (5 or less if it's reasonably populated). The problem of course is to be an ISP you have to deliver the traffic that last few miles.

This whole thing is further obfuscated by the fact that the entire infrastructure market is very human powered. Few providers provide public maps and in order to find these fiber connections you literally have to know the right people. The internet has automated everything but those people building and maintaining the backbone still need sales calls to tell you where they can connect and a bribe before you get a good price.


You can get connections suitable for backhaul pretty much anywhere as long as you are within reach, or prepared to pay for, a copper or fibre connection to an exchange. It just costs more.

I'm not up to date on prices.

Backhaul is 'just' another connection but without the same contractual restrictions as you'll usually find on normal subscriber connections.

You'll find it used in at least two different ways: as a synonym of transit to talk about a way for your ISP to connect to any other ISP via the provider they get it from, and as a means of having an access provider forward last mile traffic to one or more central locations.

But in both cases it just suggests that you have agreed with a provider to forward traffic for your users on your behalf.


NYC, among very few other places in the US, actually has some insanely good options for business grade (and priced) connectivity. (HFTs pay for very high speed connectivity.) As for why it's free to NYC mesh, I don't know. Pet project of an employee?


Heh, I clicked the comments on this to make sure Althea was being talked about. Glad to see you guys are getting deserved attention!


1) "Breach of contract" isn't illegal. It's a civil violation. Also, they may have "wholesale" internet connections that allow for re-sale.

2) They're using unlicensed spectrum, not amateur radio.


This isn’t APRS or amateur radio at all. The article doesn’t call out the band info, but if this is running over 2.4 or 5 GHz, it’s unlicensed spectrum and available for use by anyone.

If they were running over licensed spectrum, the FCC would have shut them down in the US.


Hams can run high power and high gain antennae with regular wifi gear, they call it HSMM. It doesn't sound like the mesh folks are doing that either, and even if they were, might it fall under part 15.23?


Alleged breach of a private contract is not "illegal."

Please know what you're talking about before providing legal advice.


Breach of contract itself is not illegal, but depending on intent, it could be more than breach. If you enter into a contract with the intent to extract value without abiding by the agreed terms, then it can be considered fraud. Whether it is possible to prove, or worthwhile for that to be pursued by a prosecutor is circumstantial. IANAL


The decentralized part will be a necessary part of this then... I highly doubt it's illegal to make open source software which does this.


Couldn't this just be solved by simply encrypting all traffic similar to an onion router setup? Could also be solved by the users just using some sort of VPN which encrypts all traffic. How is the ISP suppose to know you're forwarding traffic?


Where did they say they were using amateur radio bands?


Great post by NYC Mesh on why companies like Althea are a total scams or run by morons (probably both) --> https://www.nycmesh.net/blog/meshcoin


/u/woah Thoughts?


Isn't there a liability issue here? If I join the network and someone were to use my node in the transmission of something like child porn, how are you so sure I wouldn't be pinched for it?


It was a nice idea until the website mentioned block chain...


All yall talking about altruism but no one is really making internet faster and more affordable. This shit is revolutionary, and the system it sets up is going to be the backbone of a network of Co-ops in the next 10 years. A parallel economy is possible.


How's Babel treating you at scale? (What scale are you running anyway?) Are you upstreaming your changes?


Our biggest test network is only ~50ish nodes. Simulations show we won't have issues until several thousand.

Babel has been very reliable and we haven't really made any changes beyond our extensions. The price extension probably isn't appropriate to upstream. I'll admit I've been remiss up-streaming the full path latency extension.


I had this exact idea a few years back. Great to see someone working on it! Brilliant! I could actually use this service at my work. Being able to pay 25 cents/gb on my mobile would be amazing, especially if it is really fast speeds.


Wow, can you provide more info about Medellin network ?


You may appreciate Deborah's blog post.

https://blog.althea.net/faster-cheaper-internet-in-medellin-...

Ask away as far as other questions go.


That sounds awesome. How do the payments work?


I explain it in some detail here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G4EKbgShyLw

Essentially we use Eth because we don't really need a 'cryptocurrency' as much as we need an api for cash where very small payments (10c) are practical. For reasons that I explain in the presentation the key simplifying assumption of low fee transactions makes a simple billing scheme (pay per forward) work.


Yes, one added value that people often miss from Ethereum is programmable money. Ethereum gives you a nice API of money.


Oh it’s so nice to see crypto being used for this!


50 real USD says it's some kind of cryptocurrency nonsense.


"Please don't post shallow dismissals, especially of other people's work. A good critical comment teaches us something."

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


Well it looks like a rare good application for a cryptocurrency.


As a network architect this seems pretty cool to me - incentivizing individual node/router operators. How is billing & payment reconciliation handled between parties?


See my presentation at NANOG 76 on that subject.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G4EKbgShyLw


woah


Great!


I've been very intrigued by their efforts for some time now. Last time I read about NYC Mesh, it sent me down a rabbit hole of research into mesh networks and what it takes to found an ISP. I'd love to replicate their efforts in NOLA, but the legal and technical hurdles are tricky!

When I had looked into it, these resources had been helpful for research:

Wireless Networking in the Developing world -- http://wndw.net/ -- A useful guidebook on the tech needed for large scale community mesh networks

Guifi.net -- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guifi.net -- A huge wireless mesh in Spain, there's a linked economic report in the references that's very good but may be unavailable at the moment. It may have been, or be contained within, "The Cook Report on Internet Protocol" Volume XX1, No, 12 & XXII, No 1 March April 2013 ISSN 1071 - 6327. The report is very long and covers quite a bit of the social and technical challenges faced by Guifi.net


Hey there codexarcanum,

My partner and I are NOLA based programmers / lawyers who have been researching this matter for a few years. We own the domain nolamesh.net and would love to work with you to navigate the political / legal / business issues to deploy a similar network in the New Orleans metro area. Please reach out to us at nolalawcorp@gmail.com and let's set up a meeting.


This is off to an auspicious start. Here's to seeing your "How HN helped us start an ISP in New Orleans" blog post in a few years!


your website is down


>own the domain


I also found https://startyourownisp.com/ to be a good resource. I have no interest in founding an ISP, but it was really cool to read and think about


Hey that's my site! Thanks for sharing!


Just want to say thanks for that site, it has led to countless hours of reading and thinking and dreaming from me that may eventually turn into actual work!


Came here to say the same! Here's the link to the related HN discussion, in case it can useful as well [0].

[0] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16160394


The main problem is organizing. Legal and technical problems are easy by comparison. I wrote a guide here for starting your own network- https://www.nycmesh.net/blog/how/


The problem has always been that this networking technology can’t really be compared easily to wired networking, but consumers do. You adversely select for people who want reliability instead of speed, which is the opposite of what WISPs provide.


>over 35,000 active nodes and about 63,000 km of wireless links (as of July 2018)

That's impressive.


There were (maybe still are) tons of such mesh networks run by small commercial operators in Germany's rural areas, usually using directional radio to create connections between villages and then meshing all the wifi consumer routers to span wifi over the village. They did that/do that because the major commercial providers (i.e. Telekom) weren't exactly fast laying fiber to these villages.

A buddy of mine used to run such a network spanning 3 villages with about 400 customers a bunch of years back. I seem to remember one of the directional antennas was strategically placed in some church tower.

They ran this as a two people operation. Extreme weather also was a problem for them, and they essentially learned network design by trial and error, starting out as a fully bridged network where everybody was in the same 10.0.0.0/8, NATed to the outside. They fixed that later. Customers only got like 3-4MBit/s from this mesh, which wasn't exactly fast but not too shabby either back then, especially considering the only alternative those villagers had was ISDN speeds (128kbit/s max I think). No LTE yet either.

They weren't alone either. There was a huge number of such operators who shared knowledge etc.

Once he started negotiating with those villages to lay fiber and provide DSL service all of the sudden the Telekom started fibering up "his" villages.


My home internet in the Rocky Mountains, USA is delivered via mesh-WiFi provided by one of my neighbors. It's a really cool system actually- the towers are battery/solar operated and some can only be accessed via horseback. Covers ~500 homes.

5mbps down/2mbps up is what I get for $79/month, and I've learned to live with it. The only other option is satellite internet with restrictive usage caps. We used to have another competitor in the space but after big floods in 2013 they exited our area.


Does your connection maintain 5mbps/2mbps consistently? Or do you experience ups and downs in terms of speed?


It’s mostly consistent except for 7-9PM weekdays. I set up some special QoS rules that I can toggle on/off on my LAN to make my phone feel decent enough during those hours...shh don’t tell my wife! ;)


Ah, a classic home router admin move: "I'm gonna QoS all of your traffic into oblivion so that I can download my cat videos".

More seriously, I'm impressed at that consistency. I've always heard that that type of connection tends to be iffy, so it's interesting to know that my preconceptions may have been wrong.


There was (might still be but I haven't looked since fiber went everywhere where I live) a local provider to me that use microwave links, it was at the time fast as hell compared to creaking ADSL but every time it rained it went south fast, I worked in a shared office building that used it for it's main links and it was a constant thorn in my side, I used to check the rainfall forecast to see if I'd have decent internet at the office!.


But how does it work with the internet connection? You need a massive incoming bandwidth (a 500/1000Mbps Internet connection form ISP?) To share it with others?


Some commercial b2b provider had fibers already in a village (or close enough). They had no interest in providing residential service, tho. I think that provider has since been bought by Cogent (or was it level3)?

Also, I think my buddy oversubscribed the lines. And had some file sharing/fair use clause that customers needed to agree to and abide by. They didn't really do traffic shaping/DPI stuff, so once in a while they had to call or visit (when in the area anyway) the parents of some kid who just had discovered the wonders of bittorrent maxing out their allotted chunk of the bandwidth 24/7.

So yes, they bought some "business internet" from that provider, quite a lot of it. Wasn't cheap, but wasn't too expensive as they got hat provider to see the reason in "either you quote us prices we can pay, and we both make some money, or you don't and then neither of us does".


As someone who is on NYC Mesh - it’s amazing. I can’t explain the feeling you can get of pointing an antenna at a distant building and getting a ping. So great!


How was your onboarding experience? I'd love to join the mesh, but I'm pretty far from the supernodes. If you live in an apartment, did you have any issues running the wires into the building?


I think this is the big hurdle or most people in Manhattan:

To get connected to NYC Mesh, you’ll need a line of sight from your rooftop or balcony to one of our supernodes or hubs. Check our map to see if you're in the network coverage zone. And if you’re not yet in range, keep checking back as our network is always expanding, or volunteer to help us grow towards your neighborhood.

So this means that if you are in a condo you can't use it?


How is the connection? I checked with them a couple of months back and unfortunately my rooftop isn't in line of sight with any of the nodes. Really want to use it and say goodbye to Verizon.


It depends on how many hops are between you and a supernode but 60-80mbit is typical. Check the map in a few months, I was in your situation then suddenly a node popped up a mile away.



I applaud Brian Hall's dedication to NYC Mesh.


Thanks!


There's a map of community-owned networks, more than 750 communities across the United States have embraced operating their own broadband network

Map here:

https://muninetworks.org/communitymap


It really bothers me to see nothing going on in the Phoenix, Arizona region, where I live.

I'm planning on getting my Technicians HAM license sometime soon (I took one of the online practice tests "blind" and scored an 80 - so with some study it shouldn't be a problem).

Maybe after that if I can find some like-minded people nearby...


A HAM license doesn't help you: you cannot legally use the amateur radio bands to transmit an internet connection.

I suspect the Amateur HAMmers would detect and enforce that: I imagine there are HAM goonsquads.


I thought the rule was no encryption. They theoretically have an entire ip block available.


The rules also prohibit commercial communications (i.e. pecuniary interest). There are some limited exceptions which depending on your use may be enough.

That said, ham radio is a fun hobby regardless. If you are into IP stuff on ham radio, it's not too hard to get an ip on the ham IP block /8.

Amateur radio does have a tradition of self enforcement which is part of my the FCC continues to grant privileges. People practice RDF for fun but I know people who have used to to find people intentionally interfering with other stations.


I've tried toggling every option on that map, but it comes up with no results. Is there something I'm missing?


Vice had a good feature on this last month. https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/paj8z8/a-diy-internet-net...


Who does the backhaul for these networks? If it's regular ISPs, aren't all of the participants just violating their ISP terms and conditions?


NYC Mesh volunteer here. We are our own ISP and operate with generously donated transit from multiple providers. Most recently Pilot Fiber donated a 40Gbit uplink to help us kick off our new Brooklyn PoP. https://www.nycmesh.net/blog/supernode-3-is-here/


NYC Mesh pays for a backhaul. I assume that this use is covered in the ToS, but it isn't just a normal residential internet connection.

NYC Mesh pays for it through donations. Last I checked they were trying to setup a 501c3 to manage this, unsure of the status though.


Do you know what band they broadcast on? Is it the innovation band?


Most people connect over Ubiquiti airMax AC, which is 5ghz. Large hubs connect using airFiber, typically 24ghz.


DE-CIX is our donated IXP connection. We connect via peering and transit at an internet exchange point (IXP). We don't pay for an ISP connection.


What is impressive here, that it's a "mesh" or that it's a volunteer for driven?

Years ago all Minsk was covered by volunteer maintained local ethernet networks, I was accessing internet through one. Today most of them are bought out by commercial providers, some turned into providers themselves.


In Russia it was the same. Because the existing infrastructure (i.e. phone lines) was so poor, back in early 2000s people were just connecting the apartment blocks in their communities with ethernet cables.

You could then pay for Internet traffic or enjoy local neighbourhood network resources for free. People would build local websites, chat rooms, message boards, fileshares, gaming. It was pretty good for the time and I was surprised to find that in the UK/US there had not been such a development, perhaps because of better pre-existing infrastructure.


Are there similar efforts to follow in other cities? e.g Boston, SF


Comcast & AT&T cast SF's into oblivion: https://www.fastcompany.com/90319916/the-anti-competitive-fo...


If I understand it correctly, the two ways that incumbents are able to kill these efforts are through lower costs and through infrastructure restrictions. Emitting radio waves is both cheaper and lower-infrastructure than laying fiber. The question in my mind is whether the quality holds up.


You forgot pay the opposition party to demagogue. Lobbying has a higher ROI and they can keep treating internet service as a luxury good instead of a commodity.


I led this project - it died with the late Mayor Ed Lee. An interim Mayor doesn’t have the political capital to lead something of this scale.


Sudomesh - Oakland - https://sudoroom.org/wiki/Mesh

Althea - Portland - https://althea.net

Freifunk - Germany - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freifunk

Open Wireless - Global - https://openwireless.org


Sudomesh https://sudoroom.org/wiki/Mesh in Oakland


Philadelphia: https://phillymesh.net/


Yeah, see https://massmesh.org for Boston.


Is the Boston one seeing any progress (admittedly its current incarnation is rather recent)? I am moving there soon and would love to join a mesh network, but from my (superficial) reading of their materials, they do not have yet any nodes you can connect to (as a person not owning roof access for a "super node").


I believe Athens[0] was the first, or perhaps just a successful early effort. I remember being quite inspired when I read about it.

[0] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Athens_Wireless_Metropolitan...


There was Consume in the UK (predominantly London) from 2000. http://dek.spc.org/julian/consume/


common networks: https://common.net/


I'm kindda surprised internet affordability is even a blip on the radar in NY compared to housing affordability. Though I'm 100% supportive of the philosophical basis on creating the network.


There is also https://freifunk.net/ for many major cities in germany


There's a lot of good amateur radio mesh nets around as well - I'm in the process of setting up an antenna to join one in Orange County https://sites.google.com/site/orangecountymeshorganization/h...


We're also setting up an AREDN mesh in St. Louis, MO. Most of the fun for me is getting access to skyscrapers and installing and troubleshooting the network equipment and antennas. I'm not really sure what we're going to do with it once it's actually up. We might host a meet up on it via mumble every once in a while...post some files for hams to enjoy...but for me it's like, "cool, now what?"


Mumble uses TLS for everyone and every connection. Is this allowed per Part 97?


I live in a peripheral area of Europe and this is how we get our internet since 12 years from a co-op. Our speed is lower 10 Mb download and a lot less upload but it's good enough.


Can anybody explain how this works? like on a technical level?


From their docs, it looks like they're deploying a series of neighborhood-scale mesh networks, each with at least one "supernode" which acts as gateway to other supernodes and the meshes behind them, and possibly also to the internet. All the supernodes themselves are meshed together as well, each with its own private ASN.


> and possibly also to the internet.

That is an excellent point. Mesh nets may be vulnerable to being monitored over the internet. I have not read the article, but I hope these groups are building privacy into their protocol.

I have wanted to build something like this for decade now. It is inspiring to hear about their success.


Well, if you're using TLS it shouldn't matter if someone is monitoring, right?


Do these mesh networks support TLS? Even if they do support TLS, it might be possible for a node on the mesh to successfully carry out a SSL strip attack. Or aggregate leaked metadata from the requests that pass through it. I am not familiar with these mesh networks, there may be many lurking attack vectors if the creators are not particularly concerned with privacy / security.


TLS is layer 7, so any network will support it.


I wasn't making the assumption that their mesh was based on TCP. I should really just read the article and linked materials, but I am trying to ingore that temptation since I am supposed to be working :-P


I think it's very poor etiquette to make assumptions about the contents of the article while advertising the fact you haven't read the article.


By that line of reasoning it might be good etiquette to make assumptions about an article and the contents of an article provided that one does not include a disclaimer about not reading the article :-P

I did make the disclaimer that I have not read the article for the sake of transparency and humility. I probably will later this week, but the only spare time I have has been spent responding to this thread :-P


I mean, it is being used to access the internet......


An application can be designed to communicate over more than one protocol. There is more than one transport protocol used on the internet. For example, the UDP protocol may be used for for P2P / mesh networks. Applications that support UDP may also support TCP. TLS runs "on top of some reliable transport protocol (e.g., TCP). UDP is not a reliable transport protocol. There are also transport protocols other than TCP / UDP [1].

Anyway, if you are making your own mesh that does not require you to have access to an ISP, then maybe you make that mesh over something other than IP. If you did use something other than IP, that would not prevent any of the nodes from including IP in their networking stack. In that scenario, a human user of the mesh might believe that they are completely off the grid / internet, but surprise, all their traffic or leaked metadata is actually being aggregated over the internet because one of the nodes is connected.

I mainly brought this up because it popped into my head and I thought it might make for an interesting discussion. Also, because I have thought about making a distributed mesh network that does not use IP where nodes communicate via HAM radio.

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transport_layer


I'm going through this now, but following links, perhaps, answers your Q.

Mesh Design: https://docs.nycmesh.net/networking/mesh/

Supernode Architecture: https://docs.nycmesh.net/networking/supernode-architecture/


It works just like a wireless ISP, but it's installed by volunteers.


This is interesting - it says that they are connected to an internet exchange point (IXP), which means presumably they are their own AS and don't pay for peering. It makes them basically a peer of Verizon, etc..

It's a bit of a reminder of what the internet actually is - a bunch of networks connected together. If you make your own network, negotiate or purchase a piece of the IPv6 address space, and convince someone to connect to you and exchange BGP routes then you are part of it.

I wonder how hard it is to join an IXP and how much it costs?


IX costs vary by region but in NYC you can expect around $700/m for a 10g port as a startup. Transit costs over an IX port are much higher than crossconnecting directly to a provider, but IX ports are convenient and save a lot of bandwidth cost if you’re good at building relationships.

The network engineering world is very different from software. Relationships are everything and the pricing very opaque. Often pricing and lists of “who is in the building” are even behind NDA. If you are an “eyeball network” (more downloads than uploads) your transit costs will be much cheaper if you know how to negotiate, for example.


>$700/m

Is that $700 a minute, month or something else?


Month. Yikes that would be expensive otherwise!


Your terminology is a little loose there. Generally large ISPs like Verizon will not peer with random small ISPs. Even if you're connected to an IXP you still have to pay for transit if you want to reach the whole Internet.


Yes, I don't think Verizon would peer with us, but we peer with some very large companies like Google, Apple, Akamai. The full list is here- https://www.nycmesh.net/peering


Our IXP connection to DE-CIX is donated. Our transit is also donated from Packet.net, Webair and Pilot. Yes we have our own ASN.


I worked as an IT tech in a school district with 9 buildings, each connected by directional antenna. The speed wasn't great but certainly usable enough, even for video. This was back in 2000 and the guy maintaining the network learned it all on his own as far as I can tell. Weather was a problem for the network as outages were fairly common. We had an outside tech who would come out to fix the radios once in a while. Overall it got the job done, but eventually the district ponied up for a fiber connection to at least a few of the larger buildings. I helped lay new wiring for most of the buildings.



What if every household enabled an open "guest" SSID on their Wifi router? Wouldn't it have a huge positive impact of giving access to people who can't afford mobile data or home internet?


Like the old somewhat-tongue-in-cheek "Linksys Community Network Project".

The idea was roughly this:

Such a large portion of wifi equipment sold at the time had the SSID "Linksys" and no password. So everyone's devices had a saved setting to connect to that, even if we later configured our networks differently.

Therefore it's super convenient if you just call your guest network that. When you actually have guests over, chances are good that their devices will automatically use your wifi with zero hassles whatsoever.

(Also implied but unspoken: The existence of this craptastic webpage explaining the Linksys Community Network Project is plausible deniability if you get caught using someone else's open wifi that they shared out of ignorance rather than because they read this page and agreed with it.)

Ah! Of course! https://web.archive.org/web/20030402170927/http://www.linksy...


Sure, but then you have random people doing illegal things on your network and it gets linked back to you. Also, most of the major ISPs are implementing data caps, so I wouldn't want to get overage charges because someone used all my data.


You'd lose bandwidth and gain liability. Not a winning proposition.


Sure, there is absolutely no upside for me personally to do this.

There are only downsides for me, but I think they are limited: - My router lets me set the bandwidth limits for the guest network. I set it to 10Mbps down/1Mbps up which is unnoticeable. - My ISP has no data caps. - The laws here are not draconian

It looks like this concept is super old: https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2008/01/my_open_wirel...

If you were a crook, would you use a random open wifi for your illegal stuff? Wouldn't you use Tor or some proxy on top of that?


Not an issue really for liability.

https://openwireless.org/myths-legal.html


Your link just makes me more comfident that I don't want to run an open WiFi network.

Most of their defense is based on the assumption that you have all the same protections as a network operator. However, as the article points out, this has never been tested in court. So you might be fine, and you might go to jail, we don't know.

And even if you do get network operator status, there are still legal notices and copyright systems you have to comply with.

And thats all just copyright. That article doesn't deal with more serious online crimes.

If the FBI finds someone downloading child porn from your network, you will be arrested. You will have to convince the police that it was someone else. Even if you don't end up with any serious penalties, that's a hell of a lot more hassle than I'm willing to put up with.


can any Manhattan users here share their experiences? especially if more upper


We haven't reached much past 14th St yet. We are working on some big projects uptown.


I love this idea and concept, and I hope it will work well and expand. But if such a concept were to work and expand to big cities, I wonder what will happen to people living outside big cities...

While I don't know anything about the US market, I also wonder what is the motivation to make this project at home instead of mobile-based. Since we all have super-powerful computers in our pockets, it seems to me that we could have an easier similar solution using a smartphone mesh, especially in big and crowded cities?


Are you talking about turning smartphones into mesh network routers? I would imagine this would kill your battery rather quickly.

Also, it would probably require rooting the phone to install the necessary routing software.

There are a whole host of other reasons but those two are the easiest to explain.


Quotes:"The Mesh maintains a “super node” antenna and 31 hubs throughout lower Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn that collectively serve about 350 residences."..."“Plus the people are nice,” she said. “It’s a great community.”

Yeah, 350 is less then a block of customers for Comcast or Verizon. When only few people are involved everything is great, try to scale this bigger then you'll the real shit go down. It's human condition, individually we are smart, but when in large groups we're stupid.


Does it need to be scaled up beyond a community of neighbors?


If you want to offer this as an alternative to more than 0.004% of the population of New York City, yes.

Either larger groups or more of them, or both.


Yes, 350 people out of ~8 million means only ~0.00005% of New Yorkers have access to it.


I'm curious about how these things are expected to scale..

1000 subscribers, dedicated support person

5000, ???

10000, ???

At some point these community efforts must grow back into a company again, right? And the cycle repeats


> At some point these community efforts must grow back into a company again, right?

(a) Not necessarily, it might turn into a non-profit organisation, a cooperative, or something “akin”.

(b) Nothing wrong with companies either. Although I (and many others) would prefer option (a), a fairer company that respects its customers’ needs and rights is very welcome!


Except that company doesn't own the infrastructure because it's decentralized. <Insert your favorite article about decentralized systems here.>


Probably around the 1200-5000 mark you might start seeing market segmentation, and then a federation of local mesh networks' super hubs all sharing a dedicated backbone of some sort and cost sharing. Backbone and last mile always seem to get separated out pretty quickly as they're different businesses. Not all nonprofits need to scale to unicorn size.


Interesting. I wonder what equipment they're using for $110 that gets a high-bandwidth data signal over multiple city blocks without running afoul of the FCC's limits for broadcast power and signal strength. At certain frequencies those can be remarkably constraining, low enough you can easily exceed them with a twenty dollar wifi adapter and a ten dollar yagi antenna.


Wow! Is $66 really considered cheap internet these days?

I pay around $14 monthly for 100 Mbps connection from a corporate internet provider (which typically gives me around 20 Mbps download and upload when I test). No installation fee and free equipment. Same internet, but from a different country. Is the internet connection in the NYC Mesh really that much faster?


That's all great IF you live in a new building that has ethernet throughout. I live in central London where there's fiber on my street and yet I can only get ADSL @ max 8MB/s. I'd happily pay some office next door to share their gigabit fibre with me over wifi. Why hasn't anyone solved this?


Damn, I wanna make something like this happen in Miami.

I wonder how expensive a 10GB uplink from Terremark would set me back.


NYC Mesh survived on a gigabit uplink for a very long time. Go for it.


some context on the primary ISP in NYC: 1 year ago (2018-07-27) Spectrum got "kicked out of NYC": https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17628906

then in April 2019, managed to avoid getting kicked out by agreeing to expansion and paying a fine: https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2019/04/charter-avoids-g...




Anyone know what hardware these Mesh networks use?


Is there something like this for San Francisco?


There is basic infrastructure for SF Mesh in place (200+ miles of municipal owned fiber + wireless nodes throughout the city). In fact I have one at my house pointed to a local public heath clinic (there are a number of non-profits and others who get free municipal mesh internet). There is def strong interest for this in SF - we held a community event and had over hundred people show up.




I can’t recommend them enough, I get 70/70 Mbps symmetric on average, going as high as 100/100+. I only wish they didn’t have a soft monthly data cap of 1.5TB. Only $25/month after the installation fee of a satellite on your dwelling.

FTTH would be faster but San Francisco doesn’t seem that interested in wiring fiber to SFHs.

The network doesn’t seem to have an issue with fog or rain (my home might be in a particularly good spot for it).


Wait, how can internet start from $66 in NYC of all places? Where a teeny bit of extra cable can get the connection to hundreds of other subscribers? I smell a rort.


Doesn't NYC have a Times Warner monopoly for internet?

If so, that's why.


Doesn't appear so. Haven't you seen this cool, allegedly-correct FCC tool:

https://broadbandmap.fcc.gov/#/location-summary?version=dec2...


Thats so cool! Learning about this made it worth being wrong.


Not correct for my home address.


Guessing this violates many ISP ToS?


NYC Mesh is their own ISP, they aren't piggybacking onto consumer ISP connections.


If rain effects it, it is millimeter waves. Probably some kind of LMDS (point to multipoint) wireless network


My quote was a bit out of context. I was talking about how if it rained my old Time Warner Cable ("Spectrum") connection would go down for a day. This is a known TWC problem in downtown Manhattan.

NYC Mesh is having a different problem with very heavy rain where two of our high speed point-to-point connections (60GHz and 24GHz) will go down for like 20 minutes in very heavy rain. We're working on fixing this.


Aloha NYC!


This is a great use case for crypto. You can earn by supporting the network and spend it to use the network. It helps the incentive layer. Those supporting the network can pay for support personnel as they grow, or there can be a network tax that goes towards this. You can also decentralize the support personnel by rewarding people that successfully answer tickets and offer a premium for when questions are answered within a certain amount of time. These questions and answers would also be stored on-chain on a sidechain.


Why is crypto better suited to any of this than... money?


The tokens can be used for authentication. With money you'd need accounts, auth for those accounts, somebody needs to manage those accounts, etc


> With money you'd need accounts, auth for those accounts, somebody needs to manage those accounts, etc

Like... a bank? I mean, you're talking as if the infrastructure for paying someone money in return for providing you with a good or service is a wild west territory. It's, er, pretty well established.


Yes, but this way it can be decentralized along with the rest of the network, otherwise you need some central entity to manage these accounts and payments and you're back at square one where it basically becomes an ISP.


There's still some centralisation to a network like this whether you like it or not. The internet connection it uses has to be paid for somehow.

> you're back at square one where it basically becomes an ISP.

Well, a non-profit ISP, which is an important difference. The non-profit nature makes a much bigger difference to customers than the mesh nature of distribution does.


Payments can be reduced to packets, for one.


We are doing exactly this with althea.net


I've been reading https://althea.net/how-it-works and I don't quite understand one aspect:

The article says there's a "backhaul" that connects the althea network to the internet. I understand this means the community will then need just one subscription to the internet, as opposed to n, so it's cheaper. But doesn't this mean that every user in the network will experience vastly slower connection than if they had their own internet subscription?


It's a commercial subscription. The fact is, any residential ISP is selling the same connection to the internet to 20-100 subscribers. This is known as the oversale ratio. Since nobody is using the whole connection continuously, people experience the advertised speeds most of the time.

The backhaul connections that ISPs resell (and that are sold into Althea networks) are usually around 10x the price of a residential connection with the same advertised speed.

It's the difference between "it is technically possible for this connection to attain this bandwidth" and "you are guaranteed this bandwidth at all times"


To be fair, reading your comment again, it doesn't make sense to me why the reselling price to Althea network is 10x the normal price.

I don't quite see why ISP's would treat a commerical subscription to an Althea network differently than a residential network.

Sure, if an ISP knows that the Althean network is trying to optimally squeeze the most out of the backhaul, then it makes sense to increase the price. But in that case, surely an Althea network would never "reveal" itself?


thanks for clarifying! I was under the assumption that, in a normal setting where 'n' people have subscribed to an ISP, there would 'n' backhauls, one for each subscriber.

Turns out that isn't quite the case...


"crypto" means cryptography, not cryptocurrencies. Please stop appropriating the word.


While I am in favor of increasing competition among ISPs. I don't see how making it volunteer-based is actually good. All this does is take away presumably well-paying jobs from those who need them. IMO, a for-profit company developing a new mesh network would be more compelling. Not only would it provide local jobs, but it would also drive down the cost of internet for all. Somehow though, I feel this is a minority view.


"We’ve had 14 installs and 84 requests in the past 4 weeks, which works out to 3.5 installs a week."

https://www.nycmesh.net/blog/march-2019-update/

I don't think they are threatening jobs at this point. I assume if it grows big, they will likely have to hire someone and pay them.


"When it grows to about 1,000 members, he added, it can hire its first support person."

Volunteer-based initiatives can turn into companies if they're successful. Hopefully that's the case here.


At a certain scale they will hire from the same pool as the ISPs. Labor is never saved, it's just moved around. Cooperatives are always better than traditional for-profit companies because you dont have an executive class that does nothing but soak up value generated by the laborers.

At very worst, this sort of volunteer operation will not change the relationship the workers have with their labor and only change who's paying them to do it.


Cooperatives are for profit companies. I'm unsure why you think they're not or why they did not fall under my definition of 'for profit' company.

That being said. Cooperatives do have executive classes and they do soak up value from labor

Also traditional for profit companies would theoretically allow local stakeholders to reap profits but I do agree that due to unjust sec rules about accredited investors designed to protect the rich, this can not happen


Well ok, but I never implied (or meant to) that co-operatives aren't trying to generate profit for reasons that include less of that profit generation ending up in the hands of people who do less, at least in the co-ops im familiar with. They are more efficient than the predecessor organization style.

I definitely did imply that they had no executive class, though, which is wrong.


While I agree that paying people for their work is good, and that it would be cool if NYC Mesh grew into something that could provide workers with a good living, I see no need for it to become a for-profit company in order to do so.


A for-profit company will drive profits for stockholders (and not necessarily the community or customers) which will also drive competition. Sure, it creates jobs but that’s not a for-profit company’s goal. I guess it is difficult to compete given laws and/or regulations, so running a new such company for-profit would be too difficult?


> Sure, it creates jobs but that’s not a for-profit company’s goal

Well, of course. Giving away unlimited supplies of money without earning it is a privilege only the federal government has. Non-profit companies also cannot create money out of thin air. While non-profits can endeavor to create jobs as their primary mission, I have yet to see a non-profit that can actually create a job without first earning the money itself, whether through actually doing something or working to fundraise.

> I guess it is difficult to compete given laws and/or regulations, so running a new such company for-profit would be too difficult?

It doesn't even need to be for-profit. I suppose I should have clarified. It could be non-profit too. It's the all-volunteerness that I object to. The sorts of things done by volunteers here are actually jobs, that should be compensated. The receivers of the internet ought to be okay paying for it to pay for these people's livelihoods.


> The receivers of the internet ought to be okay paying for it

They do pay for it. But there are not currently enough subscribers to make hiring someone worthwhile or affordable. Hopefully that will change in time.




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