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…