This page is a simple explanation but it is going to use technical words and some buzz-words. This page will walk you through the idea, the concepts, the technology used, and how it all comes together to form the Althea network. Althea is the software stack and network that makes the better internet possible; bringing Althea to New Hampshire is how The Block Network is creating the better internet.
You may want to head over to Althea.org and read their whitepaper, which explains the technology and mechanisms in more depth.
The Althea network competes against Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to provide network access in a decentralized market-driven manner. Althea is best suited as a “last-mile” service to connect high-speed fiber-optic lines to your home and business. This is done following the Wireless Internet Service Provider (WISP) model of using terrestrial based (roofs and towers) WiFi radios to get the service to the building, then switching to ethernet cables to get the service into the building where it connects to an Althea router. The Althea router automates mesh links, price-based routing, encrypted tunnels, and payment. Every roof-top and tower is an opportunity. As more operators add to the network the competition creates a market of routing possibilities; the Althea software on each device chooses the best route at the best price and makes a payment.
The business models of current ISPs have some serious issues that the Althea network solves.
- Current ISPs are centrally owned – the infrastructure, costs, and profit are owned by the ISP corporation
- Networks are increasingly important to our day-to-day lives. The best way to secure that infrastructure is to decentralize it. Every attack vector becomes more difficult when the targets are many and diverse.
- Currently we are at the whim of the ISPs’ costs and profits models which aren’t always in line with the values of the community getting or wanting service.
- Often these corporations are controlled and owned by out-of-state interests, taking their profit out of our communities.
- Current ISPs collude with government to limit competition through licensing and regulation
- This often means spectrum goes unused, licenses are enforced, grants are awarded to cronies, and burdensome regulation is passed aimed at limiting competition. The local community often has no say.
- Current ISPs sell your data to the highest bidder, including advertisers and governments both foreign and domestic
- Currently telecom corporations work with governments of many countries to spy on their citizens and censor them.
- Telecoms also harvest data from your un-encrypted traffic and sell it to the highest bidder.
How We Change Everything
Althea is a revolution.
You were warned about the buzz-words. You might need our buzz-word glossary.
Althea is a software stack.
Althea builds off existing and cutting edge open-source projects. The routing software is based on OpenWRT. They have configured this distribution to use Babel routing algorithm to create mesh links on the ethernet ports. The concept then is to create the mesh topology using Point-to-Point (PTP) and Point-to-Multi-Point (PTMP). When a link is established the rest is automatic. Althea has modified the Babel routing algorithm to account for price and quality. This custom code is take into account prices advertised by other routers on the mesh network. The routing software will now automatically connect, configure, choose best value path, pay for traffic, and forward and charge for any traffic it should receive. Beyond the automated part a user will want to select an exit node, which is like selecting a VPN provider that also reports back if any other node lied about its quality. The user might also want to adjust the value slider, preferring cheaper or faster connections.
How does the routing software enable automatic payments?
The Althea routing software includes a cryptocurrency wallet. Users load coins or tokens onto the wallet. From there the software automatically makes payments. The system is extensible – any cryptocurrency could be added to the system.
IPv4 or IPv6?
The Althea network is IPv6 native. Each router gets a globally routable IPv6 address and the network can of course route internally.
The Althea network ends up creating a decentralized internet access market; something the world has never seen before.
What are you waiting for?
Here is the buzz-word glossary:
- Decentralize: to make not central. This really is the ethos of a whole movement – maybe of this whole generation. Decentralization is the stone that takes out many birds.
- Anonymous: when an account or action is not associated with identifying information.
- Private: when an account or action is not identifiable at all.
- Distributed ledger: a type of decentralized database existing on many different computers.
- Blockchain: a type of distributed ledger organized into virtual blocks forming a virtual chain, cryptographically immutable.
- Cryptocurrency: a unit of account on a cryptographically secured distributed ledger.
- Proof of Work (PoW): a way to reach consensus on what data a block on a blockchain contains, making the ledger immutable and thus protected from bad actors, by having a distributed network of mining hardware perform intensive calculations – requiring a bad actor to perform even more calculations than the good actors on the network.
- Proof of Stake (PoS): Similar to PoW, but instead of intensive calculations, good actors stake their cryptocurrency, ensuring it is very costly to be a bad actor.
- Smart contracts: a type of contract, code, program, or app that uses a distributed ledger to automate, secure, and document actions.
- Ethereum: one of a few smart contract, blockchain based, distributed ledgers.
- Eth: the cryptocurrency native to Ethereum.
- Decentralized Autonomous Organization (DAO): a way of organizing using distributed ledges and smart contracts to ensure security, immutability, consensus, rule following, and automation. All cryptocurrencies are a DAO with varying levels of rules and automation. Ethereum allows the creation of DAOs that run on its platform.
- Aragon: an Ethereum based app with tools (smart contracts) for running DOAs.
- Network topology: how a network is organized.
- Mesh: a network topology that uses protocols that allow a network to automatically organize in a decentralized manner. Most often physical networks of routers forming what is often called a local area network. These can use wireless radios or wired connections to form the network; the latter obviously doesn’t connect itself, but neither does a radio until the antennas are pointed at each other.
- Incentivized mesh networking: A mesh network that incentivizes participation by compensating for routing. Router gets paid to route data.
- Open Source: when the code is available to read and analyze.
- Free / Libre: when the code doesn’t have protectionist licensing / copyrighting.
- OpenWRT: a linux distribution designed to control routers, built for embedded devices.
- Althea: a project that brings together all the above into a software stack.