Justin Kilpatrick |

Althea is about building infrastructure

When we talk about Althea's design often the first question comes down to 'why home internet'. Why do we focus on home networks when what people really want is cell data, just cheaper?

Mobile data is the major driver of world internet adoption. The majority of the world's internet users have a mobile connection. So why isn't Althea focused on providing mobile internet?

The short answer is that home internet is useful even if you only build infrastructure to one location. A cell provider that only works in one place is a horrible cell provider, no matter how fast that location is.

Modern cell networks simply can't service the demands of the home internet market. Leaving a major industry with little to no competition and sky high prices.

Why is internet infrastructure so expensive anyway?

outdoor fiber cabinet for a new apartment building in Raleigh NC

Since only about 3% of American households have access to fiber people assume it's just hideously expensive to build.

But that's not the case, The average fiber deployment pays for itself in only 5 years. Any hedge fund or pension fund would love to have that sort of return, if it where simply a matter of money we would be drowning in fiber.

The real cost of fiber and other in-the-ground telecommunications infrastructure is coordination- access to thousands of different pieces of public and private property.

As an ISP you have to coordinate with home owners, business owners, cities, towns and counties. The enormous amount of time spent organizing a new internet service provider means that you will be paying employees to organize your network for years before you start servicing your first customer.

Internet infrastructure is very profitable to build, but organizing the construction it is such a time and money sink that even the wealthiest companies in the world have to cut their losses. This strongly advantages incumbent ISPs, who can afford to pay hundreds of different people who's only job is to keep contacts with local governments, permitting agencies, and businesses.

Then a whole other level of people whose job it is to work with each individual homeowner to make the connection happen.

The cost of the actual fiber and the construction required to put it into the ground is very small compared to the standing army required to get all the paperwork in order.

What if we could make coordination free?

Althea reduces the coordination problem to only you and your neighbours. The larger organization of a network is handled automatically by the system and updated second by second.

Once a home has an Althea router it will always be on the lookout for a better connection and switch to it instantly. Before Althea, getting an entire neighbourhood onto your new fiber line might take months or years to organize.

The network owner would have to visit every home, and setup every homeowner on the new, better and cheaper, connection. With Althea that can happen within 30 seconds of the new line being plugged in.

By removing the need for a single organization to coordinate every part of the network and replacing it with an automated system what was previously nearly impossibly expensive to organize becomes free.

Building automatically efficient infrastructure

Next generation telecommunications networks are all about solving or reducing the coordination problem.

5g requires microtowers on every street corner and bets on reduced cost by reducing coordination with homeowners in exchange for increased city-level permitting.

Low earth orbit satellite internet, like StarLink and OneWeb, focuses on removing the need to coordinate with cities but still requires an antenna on the roof of every house.

Althea's premise is to tackle the coordination problem directly by changing the way networks are owned and built. Comcast's value is not the 30 pounds of copper wire and two servers it uses to service your home, but the coordination required to replace them. Althea provides an alternative to the monopoly owned network, a decentralized ISP owned by it's users.

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