A key element of Web 3 and blockchain technology is a reliable & quality internet connection. Generally, users rely on traditional internet service providers (ISPs) to provide an internet connection to their area. While traditional ISPs work, they are centralized, costly, and often lack individual control.
Is there a decentralized alternative to traditional internet service providers? Introducing Althea:
Althea is a decentralized, blockchain based protocol for multi-stakeholder networks. Participants earn revenue automatically by hosting hardware, providing bandwidth, or supporting the service layer of the network. Althea incentivizes individuals to provide bandwidth to users in their local communities. As the network bandwidth providers grow Althea ultimately becomes faster, cheaper, and more reliable. Equipment owners are compensated in rewards for their contributions to the network, while users have the freedom to select which internet service they choose based on cost.
Althea encourages positive competition on the network through decentralization, eliminating the risk of monopolistic activities. The key technology behind Althea is a price-aware protocol and blockchain payment system that debits and credits funds based on a router’s bandwidth usage. The Althea crypto-fueled routers automatically pay other users based on network usage.
The network operates through users providing services to each other such as running hardware and supporting the network. All connections within Althea networks are fully encrypted using Wireguard, and relays cannot observe or censor your traffic.
The Althea mesh Internet process works in three steps:
The cost structure for the Althea network is a small monthly fee, as well as fees associated with network usage. According to their website, most families pay roughly $30-$50 per month for the internet service in the US. On average, users can expect speeds around 50-70Mbps in rural areas and 200-300Mpbs in urban areas.
Since Althea is built within the Cosmos ecosystem, it benefits from shared cryptographic security. Althea will be maintained by validators running the Althea blockchain software. As Althea is a proof of stake blockchain, users can delegate the ALTG token to validators, giving them power to validate the Althea blockchain. The native ALTG token is used to secure the Gravity bridge and Althea chain. ALTG holders earn a transaction fee for this role. There will be an inflationary reward as well, similar to most Cosmos chains. It is important to keep in mind that validators who perform this role incorrectly or have too much downtime are “slashed”.
Payments will typically be executed on Althea using stablecoins, which gives users peace of mind through times of volatility. Validators and delegators of ALTG tokens will earn transaction fees from each payment. While the Althea staking details are still in discussion, the Althea team is looking at other examples within the cosmos ecosystem, like Akash, that have similar considerations.
The ability to obtain a reliable, decentralized, and cost efficient internet connection is the reason Althea already has seen success in the real world.
After barely being able to stream low-definition videos, a homeowner named David in Tacoma, Washington took initiative to find a better internet provider for his local neighborhood. David worked with a local internet provider to help install and connect internet equipment to the Althea network, and now, 6 houses on his block buy bandwidth from him through Althea. David now is able to support the local community with faster internet speeds, going from roughly 8-12Mbps to over 200Mbps.
Local initiatives like the example from David above are very important for supporting communities. Often even in urban environments many communities lack broadband access, paying high prices for slow internet speeds. Althea is revolutionizing the internet provider landscape, giving power to the users to own and operate their own equipment, which in turn empowers the community.
Recently, the Althea Wave 7 team won a $154,000 grant from the Internet Society and Truist. The Expanding Potential in Communities (EPIC) Grant program supports broadband initiatives in the southeastern United States, funded by Truist Financial Corporation’s Truist Cares initiative, a $50 million philanthropic pledge to help rebuild communities affected by COVID-19. This grant will help provide important internet access to many users in rural communities in North Carolina.
Over the next couple of months, the Althea mainnet is expected. Post-mainnet launch, the team will be heavily focused on scaling the marketplace, and providing higher transaction reliability throughout the network. Althea will also be launching the first user owned fiber networks and LTE stack this year.