Lake County Internet Co-op Community Call — 04/18/21 @ 4:00PM

This Sunday we will be hosting the first community call for the Lake County Internet Co-op. This will be a chance for residents of Lake County to learn more about the new broadband service we will be launching that will be entirely community owned and operated, delivering fast and affordable broadband service to even the hardest to reach areas of Lake County.

This network is slated to launch in Q3/Q4 of this year, initially starting to connect customers in the Polson area southward, with ideally an additional point of presence being deployed in the Arlee area building northwards. Here is a visual representation of the initially purposed coverage area:

The Lake County Internet Co-op will be the second Montana network deployed by the Pacific Northwest Rural Broadband Alliance, with our flagship network being the Missoula Valley Internet Co-op. These networks are very unique, in that they are built on a revolutionary technology known as Althea. The Althea platform facilitates the creation of entirely community owned and operated mesh networks, composed of a series of customer owned wireless relays. These relays form a peer-to-peer network that connect neighbor to neighbor, one neighborhood at a time.

Customers receive an incentive to host these relays by earning a real-time revenue for the bandwidth they help provide to the other customers around them. This revenue serves to subsidize the relay owners own service cost, and in certain circumstances can even provide a small profit (roughly $20-$30 a month). This means, in effect, that each person that hosts a relay “owns the internet,” or at least owns a portion of the infrastructure that helps facilitate others to connect to the service, allowing the network to grow larger, more resilient, and ultimately more affordable for everyone (relay owners and standard customers alike). You can read more about the details around these relays in our previously posted blog entry.

With Montana being 50th in broadband access we have learned first hand that comprehensive access to fast and affordable internet service is not going to be provided from the corporate level down. Many towns in Montana are so small that they fall outside the profit model of traditional ISP’s, and thus will never receive adequate service — or if they do receive service, the quality of service they receive will not keep up with the rapidly growing demand for faster service.

This model of construction and operation of an ISP solves this problem by not only being a far more efficient means of building out the necessary infrastructure, but puts the power and control of how these networks are built and operated into the hands of the community itself.

During the community call this Sunday we will discuss the formation of the Lake County Internet Co-op in more detail, and provide everyone in attendance with the information that they need to being to understand how working together, from the ground up community level, we can solve the broadband access issue that we all struggle with, and ultimately create a more equitable multi-stakeholder system by which everyone that participates benefit not only with a degree of financial incentive, but with fast and affordable broadband service for themselves and all the communities in Lake County to allow residents the ability to work effectively from home, provide their children adequate distance learning, facilitate vital tele-medicine services, and all the other economic benefits that come from a sustainable network that is capable of continuing to grow to meet future needs.

The zoom conference information for this call is:

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You can watch the recording of this community call here on our YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/xN2gl18kG-E

We are The Pacific Northwest Rural Broadband Alliance, a non-profit foundation dedicated to building fast, affordable, community powered broadband networks.

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