What type of internet is this actually? Is it DSL? Fiber Optic? Satellite shared over Ethernet?
The type of internet is called Fixed Wireless and is composed of line of sight wireless antennas sharing a terrestrial source of internet.
Where are you getting your internet from to service your customers?
The primary source of internet is AT&T Enterprise Dedicated Fiber on Airport Rd (the north side of Cement Hill ridge). We have multiple access point radios in a tree that has a wide view of the Rock Creek watershed to the north and northeast, and another relay location on Airport Rd with views to the south and east of Nevada City.
Will this service last for years to come guaranteed?
There are no guarantees, contracts, or service level agreements. Thomas, the founder and operator, was born and grew up here, has always lived here, and will most likely continue to do so. He is running this network as a best effort part-time community service and will continue to do so as long as it is useful enough to customers that it’s worth running. This might mean that when/if fiber to the home actually arrives in our neighborhoods that there may be too little demand to justify running it. But our sense is there will continue to be pockets of folks that want it, so we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.
How is the latency and speed of this internet?
The network is designed as a mesh, with some folks having a direct wireless line of sight to the fiber location, and other folks having a multi-relay set of hops to there. Service depends on which access point you’re connected to, time of day, amount of congestion on the access point, number of relays, etc.
From a location with a direct line of sight to the main fiber site, you would likely see 20-50 mbps during the day and 10-25 mbps in the evening 8-11pm during prime streaming time. Latency depends on load, with approx 30 ms unloaded during the middle of the day.
Here’s a traceroute from an average router on the network with a direct line of sight:
Here’s a traceroute from a router going through two relays to get to the fiber site:
What happens if damage to the lines is incurred from snow season?
If your tree antenna, or the line from there to your house, is damaged, then that would be your liability to pay for new equipment and to have a tree climber repair or replace the equipment in the tree. A tree climb is $100/hr, $300 minimum. TreeLink takes care of the primary fiber location and relays. If you need help with network issues at your residence, that’s a billable service call, $50/hr, $100 minimum.
What are the physical connection/antenna/wiring/modem/etc requirements?
We would climb the tree and mount a Ubiquiti LTU-Pro antenna, run a CAT6 outdoor shielded cable wrapped with poly tubing to avoid squirrel chews, run the cable into the house to a POE unit that provides power to the antenna over the CAT6 cable, then to a router, either WIFI or no WiFi if you already have a WiFi or indoor mesh. We use a custom router firmware so you will need to buy one of our routers. We use the Althea.net routing/billing/support system, so they provide level 1 support and process bandwidth payments.
What are the type, speed, and characteristics of the internet service itself?
The network is a mesh of nodes sharing with other nodes. Most nodes are owned by members of the network and, unlike legacy ISPs, members are incentivized to share with their neighbors. The routers run an innovative automatic blockchain-based metering and billing system composed of real-time micro-payments. You pre-fill your router’s “wallet” with funds and its balance decreases as it purchases bandwidth from its upstream relay and pays service fees. Your router only sends payments when the internet is working. If you turn it off, it will pay zero and your balance will be the same the next time you turn it on.
The speed varies depending on usage of other members. There are no arbitrary speed limits. The speed at any given time is based on the amount of other usage on the various shared access point radios. Priority routing is given to low latency traffic like zoom and wifi calling.
I just ran some speed tests on one sections of the network during evening peak TV streaming time and got 13 mbps down 8 mbps up, whereas in another part of the network it’s running at 35 mbps down and 20 up. During the day it’s usually more like 20-50 mbps down.
What is a summary of any upfront and ongoing costs applicable to your service?
You pay for the gear and labor up front, which is usually about $900-1000 for a tree climb install. After it’s set up, then the service is ($20/mo + ~$0.20/GB) * 1.1
The $20/mo goes to me for running the network, the ~$0.20/GB goes to the upstream bandwidth relay, gateway, and exit routers, and the 10% goes to Althea for providing the payment processing and level 1 support.
Does Treelink have a local physical office in town or is everything handled either online or via email?
There’s no physical office. It’s mostly a one-man operation out of my home and I hire a couple of contractors for installation help. TreeLink support is available via email at firstname.lastname@example.org and voice or text at 530-453-0374, and Althea’s support number is 1-866-4ALTHEA
Does TreeLink provide the ability to stream TV?
It’s possible, but bandwidth is priced to disincentivize excessive high resolution TV. If you watch a lot of TV then it’s recommended to get DirectTV. Wireless internet is a scarce resource and the goal is to keep it more available for zoom and wifi calling, mainly for education and business. That said, moderate streaming is possible and affordable.
Can we give up our ATT business phone lines and convert to VOIP with your service, etc
You can, but I always advise to have multiple sources of internet, if possible, especially for a business. I don’t recommend making your business 100% dependent on TreeLink. It’s a best effort part-time community service intended to fill in the gaps.
There are no SLA, contract, terms of service, etc. That said, many people are doing business from home on TreeLink, my self included, but there is always the risk of a problem happening on the network. Squirrels like to chew cables, for example. I keep a secondary satellite internet service for the rare times when TreeLink goes down since it’s mission critical to my business to have internet at all times.