Mesh networks are wonderful for many reasons. My primary interest in them is their ability to decentralize Internet connectivity but they also offer a major advantage for those living in areas not currently services by high-speed Internet providers: a more cost effective means of obtaining Internet connectivity.
A lot of people complain that the Internet service providers (ISP) in their area don’t offer high-speed connectivity to their home but offer it to homes only a block or two away. In almost all cases ISPs will connect your home up but they’ll put the cost of expanding their infrastructure on you:
When Cole Marshall decided to buy an empty lot and build a house, one of his top priorities was getting fast and reliable Internet service.
Marshall says he received assurances from Charter, the local cable company, that he could get Internet access to his home in Wisconsin. There was also a promise of relatively fast DSL, with telco Frontier Communications telling him it could provide 24Mbps download speeds, he told Ars.
As it turned out, neither company could deliver. Once the house was built, Charter would only offer service if he paid $117,000 to cover the cost of extending its network to his new home. Frontier does provide DSL Internet, but only at slower speeds of up to 3Mbps downstream and 1Mbps upstream.
Marshall, who works at home as a Web developer, subscribed to Frontier and struggles with his Internet connection daily.
“Cable was always available everywhere I lived, and I never thought moving just a little bit out of the city would mean I’d get hardly anything,” Marshall said.
Whether Charter and Frontier provided those assurances is a case of he said, she said. But the core problem, Marshall wanting access to faster Internet connectivity, exists regardless. In this case Charter isn’t unwilling to provide him cable Internet but it does expect him to pay for expanding its infrastructure to him. The price isn’t surprising since acquiring permits, digging up ground, burying fiber, and covering it back up isn’t cheap. But Marshall also isn’t without choices.
Wireless Internet connectivity is nice because it doesn’t require building a lot of physical infrastructure. You only need two radios to span a gap. And based on the story Marshall isn’t that far from Charter customers with cable Internet service:
Marshall has been told that his home was about 3,200 feet from Charter’s network, or about 6/10 of a mile. But a Charter spokesperson told Ars that an inspection determined it could not build to Marshall’s home from the nearest facilities.
Spanning approximately one kilometer is easily doable with affordable radios. The directional NanoStations we used at AgoraFest can span five times that distance and cost about $40 to $50 per radio. Here is where Marshall could make use of a mesh network.
Were he to offer to pay one of Charter’s customers it’s likely they would have no issue providing him Internet access via wireless radio. After all, most people buy more bandwidth than they need and are happy to receive a little undeclared income. If other people in his housing development made similar deals it would be trivial for his neighborhood to have access to fast Internet connectivity for a very modest price. And because of how mesh networks operate the Internet connectivity could be maintained even if one of the Charter customers canceled a deal.