Case Studies

Althea networks can be set up by anyone, anywhere. We work with subnet organizers all over the world to help them set up networks from scratch: from finding the right source of bandwidth, to setting up and optimizing equipment, through finding new users and rallying their community around the cause. No two networks are the same, as each is built from the ground up to meet the unique needs of the area.

Our routing protocol makes it easy to manage these networks once they’re up and running. With automated usage monitoring, billing and payments, organizers can focus on growing and improving these networks, instead of drowning in administrative needs. We’re excited about our first deployments—if you’re interested in starting one in your community, please get in touch!

MEDELLIN

Legacy ISP: Slow or No Bandwidth

In many parts of Medellin, internet connections are spotty, slow, expensive, or non-existent. The subnet organizers at red_medellin are deploying their first Althea network in the hillside community neighborhood Communa 13, where a small number of high-speed, line-of-sight connections can bring better bandwidth to homes, schools, and businesses. Read our blog post about helping them deploy Althea in Medellin.

Althea: Faster, Cheaper Internet— Owned by the people using it

The red_medellin subnet DAO is bringing internet access to Communa 13, partnering with another local organization to buy bandwidth, and beaming it by radio to the neighborhood. While some nodes on the network will just be accessing the internet, others can help grow the network organically by getting their neighbors set up too—offsetting the cost of their own connection, or even earning a little money doing so.

red_medellin was started by 4 young Americans living in Medellin. However, they do not own the network. Althea’s decentralized architecture means that each node is owned by the people using it to buy and/or sell internet access. The red_medellin subnet organizers provide technical support and installation services to this network of independently-owned nodes.

Technology & Topology

Gateway Node

Red_medellin has partnered with local recording studio Son Bata to buy commercial bandwidth and beam it to Comuna 13. This connection will travel 1.6km by point-to-point radio to a school that sits on a hill above the neighborhood, with a great line of sight to many of the houses and buildings nearby.

Intermediary Nodes

Any houses with a direct view of the school can point an inexpensive antenna to the sector antennas set up above the school and connect to the internet. These houses can then “pass on” this connection to their neighbors via ethernet cable, earning some money.

User Nodes

Users access bandwidth through intermediary nodes, or directly from the gateway node, and don’t pass it on to anyone else… yet. Anytime they want to, these users could become intermediary nodes by selling their connection on to their neighbors.

Learn more

CLATSKANIE

Legacy ISP

A fiber connection runs through the center of the small town of Clatskanie. But with a population of only 2000, ISPs in the area just aren’t motivated to build adequate infrastructure to the outlying areas. Some residents only option is expensive internet access through cell phone companies which can cost upwards of $150 per month.

Althea

While ISPs aren’t motivated to address these access issues, Clatskanie’s residents are resourceful. With Althea, they are able to set up a network whose nodes are owned by the local residents who use them to access the internet. Soon, these nodes will pay each other, giving families who host nodes that relay traffic for other houses a small income to offset their payments for internet access.

The network’s current main gateway is at Deborah’s computer repair shop. At the computer repair shop, there is a sector antenna which connects to 5 homes in the surrounding town, up to 2 miles away. There is a tower on a hill above town with an intermediary node which relays the internet access to another home.

The subnet DAO, ClatskanieCoop, is structured as a legal cooperative. A legal entity is not necessary for all Althea subnets, since the subnet DAO software allows a local group to administer the network and manage revenue from the network on the blockchain, but the cooperative structure has proven useful for ClatskanieCoop because it allows them to interface with the traditional legal system to co-own hardware and get permits.

Some residents are planning to put up towers to reach larger areas as a side hustle, investing a few thousand dollars in the tower equipment to be able to make a few hundred dollars a month going forward.

Clatskanie was Althea’s first deployment, and is being spearheaded by one of Althea’s founders, Deborah Simpier. She is joined by 4 other co-organizers: Yvonne owns the local fruit stand, and is a bus driver. Dante is a young game developer. Shaun is a programmer and and tinkerer who design the telescoping tower that ClatskanieCoop is currently using. Clark is a retired Intel project manager.

Future vision

An additional 25 houses are currently on the waitlist. After this, there are plans to extend the network to other communities along the Columbia River like Marshland, Woodson, and Kerry. Because of Althea’s decentralized structure, it’s easy for anyone to buy some equipment and extend the network, but ClatskanieCoop will play a guiding role, as organizers of their subnet DAO.

Technology / Topology

Gateway nodes

The backhaul is provided by a commercial internet subscription at Deborah’s computer shop. This costs x per month. This is broadcasted out to the town by some sector antennas on the computer shop’s roof. ClatskanieCoop has opted to use 2.4ghz radios instead of 5ghz because the lower frequencies go through foliage more easily.

Another idea for a second gateway is to work with the Smoky Waters wireless ISP which is based on a nearby island. Smoky Waters could sell bandwidth into the ClatskanieCoop subnet from their network. Althea’s architecture allows multiple gateway nodes to serve a subnet. Individual routers automatically choose the gateway which is faster and cheaper, which tends to be physically near to them.

Intermediary nodes

Currently, the tower and a couple of homes in Clatskanie are serving as intermediary nodes. Any Althea node can sell bandwidth to other nodes, but we call a node that has better antennas and earns money forwarding packets for other nodes an intermediary node. In the future, another tower over Clatskanie and one covering Marshland will be intermediary nodes. Also, anyone who wants to hook up their neighbor or any other house they have line of sight to can become an intermediary node.

User nodes

Users access bandwidth through intermediary nodes, or directly from the gateway node, and don’t pass it on to anyone else… yet. Anytime they want to, these users could become intermediary nodes by selling their connection on to their neighbors.