Case Study — 02

Clatskanie


Legacy ISP: Slow or No Bandwidth

A fiber connection runs through 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.
Offgrid Tower
Network Organizers help erect a relay radio tower in the woods above town
Antenna Behind a Tree
An antenna on a user's home is installed to reach above the tree line

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

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 8 homes in the surrounding town, up to 2 miles away. There is a tower on a hill above town with a relay node which relays the internet access to another home.

The local Althea network, Clatskanie Co-op, is structured as a legal cooperative. A legal entity is not necessary for all Althea networks, since the Althea software allows local organizers to administer the network and manage revenue from the network on the blockchain. However, the cooperative structure has proven useful for Clatskanie Co-op 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 five 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 tinkerer who designed the telescoping tower that Clatskanie Co-op is currently using. Clark is a retired Intel project manager. Matt is a tug boat captain and has experience with his company's union.

An earlier version of the gateway was a simple pole with 2.4Ghz sector antennas.

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 Quincy. Because of Althea's decentralized structure, it's easy for anyone to buy some equipment and extend the network, but Clatskanie Co-op will play a guiding role, as organizers of their local Althea network.

Technology & Topology

Clatskanie Node Map Clatskanie Node Map Clatskanie Node Map
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Gateway Node

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The backhaul is provided by a commercial internet subscription at Deborah's computer shop. This is broadcasted out to the town by some sector antennas on the computer shop's roof. Clatskanie Co-op has a mix of of 2.4ghz radios which can be useful for penetrating some foliage and 5ghz antennas.

Currently, the tower and a couple of homes in Clatskanie are serving as relay 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 a relay node. In the future, another tower over Clatskanie and one covering Marshland will be relay nodes.

Users access bandwidth through relay 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 relay nodes by selling their connection on to their neighbors.