How to best utilize a disruptive internet technology (not hypothetical)

Hi everyone,

I became aware of the platform coop movement recently, but I’ve been working towards a compatible goal for the last few years: to find a way to utilize my father’s technology – a next generation physical layer technology that’s basically green 5/6G (see https://optipulse.com/ – for the purpose of making the internet more free (i.e. fighting censorship, preserving net neutrality and the right to privacy, etc) . In my opinion, the best way of achieving this would be to create a decentralized ISP model that gives regular people the chance to set up DIY ISPs and service their peers (so it would be something like the AirBnB of internet service). This would call for a new model with some inalienable rights baked in.

What I envision is a business that makes the process of setting up DIY ISPs simple and cheap. These would be franchises that conform to a platform coop model, and have the effect of reducing reliance on big telecoms as middle men by giving consumers more (and geographically closer) options. These franchises would partner with participating ISPs and utilize mesh-networking technology to create ad-hoc networks.

Perhaps through a partnership with Optipulse, a platform coop similar to what I described above could be formed and have a competitive advantage over big telecoms, while furthering the cause of free and fair internet access. I believe getting this one thing right will boost our chances of meeting future challenge wisely.

If anyone is interested in talking about this, I’d be glad to have some feedback from members of such a well-meaning group. I’m looking for potential business partners, or any other input.

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Hi @dvdjsph
Sounds interesting - a bit like https://guifi.net perhaps, but using the optical tech? Would work well in more remote hard to reach communities where the cost of connection with FTTP can be very high. Perhaps a community owned model might work - something like b4rn.org.uk ?
@shaun may have thoughts on this - he runs a broadband infrastructure co-op.

I agree; decentralization doesn’t necessarily lead to ideal outcomes. Yes, I’m calling for physical infrastructure to be owned and operated by local communities, and for a large number of users to ditch their internet service and switch to local DIY providers. The real revolutionary step wouldn’t be who owns the equipment, but rather the right to sublet unused bandwidth. Optipulse’s technology can be used to make internet connections orders of magnitude faster than what’s typically considered high-speed, the unused badwidth being redistributable through mesh networking technology.

As you seemed to imply, there may be considerable difficulties in accomplishing this that I’ve yet to consider. This is one reason I’m reaching out here.

I’m interested in creating a platform coop. I have little knowledge and no experience in this, which is why I’m reaching out here. I’m not sure what the best way to fund this would be, but crowdfunding seems appealing. My father’s business is gaining some momentum as of late, and he’s interested in partnering with/supporting the creation of a company like I’ve been describing.

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At any mention of B4RN my ears prick up as I was a volunteer with and a user of B4RN. But of course B4RN exactly works by providing affordable FTTP in rural areas particularly, where I imagine mesh networks would be less likely to work. Maybe this is a good starting principle: community owned FTTP works in rural areas, where most properties are surrounded by diggable land. In towns the incumbents have it sewn up. But in towns mesh networks sound – at least in principle – much more feasible.

Hi @Graham

Right about the optical tech - specifically, free-space optical wireless. So basically like fibre-optic cables – in terms of speed – without the cables. So no digging up long stretches of earth to install. Unlike other wireless techs, it’s not in a licensed spectrum, so no need to worry about licensing. On top of that, the devices are cheaper and more energy-efficient than competitors’, and they reduce microwaves in the atmosphere by being a good replacement for microwave towers in many cases.

I don’t know much about those two projects you mentioned, but one thing that might make my conception different is that I want to turn those who are typically consumers into producer-consumers - i.e. they would be allowed to resell unused bandwidth to their neighbors. The very high volume of bandwidth possible through Optipulse’s tech makes this feasible.

Reselling bandwidth is a new frontier. Five years ago or so, these ideas were mostly untested; now, companies like althea are making ways to resell data that are technology agnostic.

About rural communities - you’re right, this tech stack would make remove economic barriers for getting high speed internet out beyond big cities.

Hi @asimong - that’s interesting. My father’s tech is like fiber in terms of speed, but is line-of-sight and doesn’t require digging. It’s hard to tell what sort of distances it’s capable of transmitting - at least 1 km, maybe more than 10. I’m not entirely sure what part it could play in a community wireless ecosystem, but I’m hoping that it will have a positive impact.

I suppose it would depend a bit on the accessibility.

If each device costs $100 (no idea, $1000? $10k?), and someone sets up a few on their farm pointing in multiple directions to establish the mesh network;

  1. You would need startup funding to hire the installation crews. Or it could be contracted out to your dad’s company.
  2. You would need to incorporate (state or federally), membership shares could be based annually on the subscription fee instead of a separate share.
  3. You could have an online platform like Loomio, or a basic website to inform members/ask for insights/vote for the board.
  4. You would need to engage members on the service offering, the business model, how much they would save/benefit from being a member.
  5. Some sort of contract with the source connection.

In Canada there’s an organization called Coops First that could help you structure your co-operative. I think this is an interesting use-case because it’s a relatively new/unknown technology for internet distribution, but if it actually is proven to work, it would be great to start off as a co-operative before being taken over by exploitative interests.

I wonder if it would make sense to talk to rural cooperative associations/agriculture groups/ and credit unions in rural areas to see if they’d be interested in this. You could organize as a multi-stakeholder co-operative to gain credit union investment while maintaining democratic control.

@SolarDesalination Good points. I’ll have to get back to you on cost estimates. Also a good idea to consider credit unions in rural areas.

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It might also be worth talking with the Rural Development Agencies in the UK.

Locally-owned, locally manufactured infrastructures is the ideal use-case where the co-operative business model hits the sweet spot. :slight_smile:

Maybe talk to whomever wrote this paper too? https://www.electric.coop/expanded-rural-broadband-access/

possible equation:
Dumb government money + organization that knows how to lobby in washington + innovative new idea = grant to create a rural co-op pilot project.

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