ri/blog

Roaming Initiative is a new company that aims to pioneer competitive internet over CJDNS last-mile networks. We also want to open-source as much of our own stack and configuration as possible, so that it’s painless to set up as one of our competitors. By licensing everything we make as (L)GPL, we can benefit from the efforts of these competitors just as they benefit from our own work.

All of this adds up to a strong running start in the direction of internet freedom. A consumer’s ability to choose a different ISP at the drop of a hat can and will revolutionize pricing schemes and business models. We hope to promote open standards, open software, open minds, and open dialogue.

Profits and economics

While not so much as a matter of technicality, RI is a non-profit at heart. Profit motive will always be secondary to the safety and freedom of our customers. We can afford to do this thanks to strong financial support from the CEO’s better-paying job at Inspire, which essentially subsidizes the Roaming Initiative project’s expenses. Of course, eventually it would be nice to have dedicated programmers, engineers, and sysadmins working for RI, which is part of why the company won’t simply provide public internet for free (although a crowdfunded public channel is in the pipeline).

Like all ISPs, RI works by a tiered subscription model. There will be a few prepackaged combinations of speed, bandwidth cap, and number of channels, but you can always create a custom subscription based on your needs if none of the packages fit you. You pay this monthly to keep your channels open. There are no contracts, ever. You can walk away whenever you want, and come back later if you like.

We will also sell RILinks - mesh hardware designed to forward all clearnet traffic through the Roaming Initiative VPN, while being easy to set up and painless to use. Effectively, it replaces your modem, as it’s the thing you plug your existing conventional router into. RILinks will come in several models based on commodity hardware, so we expect revenue from these sales as well, although anyone feeling adventurous can build their own from an old laptop or OpenWRT-compatible router and our open-source software.

Payments will be supported for:

  • Paypal
  • Credit cards
  • Bitcoin

We hope to eventually support OpenTransactions as well, though it’s not as much a priority as the first three.

Channels

Channels are encryption keys that have access to the VPN. Even the cheapest package comes with 5 channels. Your channels all share your total speed and bandwidth cap, so if you have a cap of 500G and you use 400G from one channel, the rest will only have 100G to share between them.

Channels are cool because:

  • You can have different keys on different machines, so if one gets hacked, you don’t have to get new keys for every machine, you only have to fix the one.
  • You can remotely administrate channels with a web interface. Nice for doing things like taming your torrent seedbox, looking at pretty graphs, and diagnosing which household device is using up all the bandwidth.
  • You can hand them out to friends without worrying about compromising your own security. Think of it like an “extra password” that you can let someone else use for awhile, without ever giving away your real password. When you don’t need it anymore, just disable it with the web interface!

Most people will only use one channel, which will supply their RILink device. So if channels sound like something too complicated and nerdy for you, don’t worry, it’s not something you have to get your hands in if you don’t want to.

RILink devices

While any old junk laptop can be turned into a Linux-based RILink, we’re going to sell a couple models for convenience. It’s simply commodity hardware with open source software. We’re going to use a fork of the Plinth admin interface (used for FreedomBox) to set up and manage your VPN setup with RI. All your mesh traffic will go across the local mesh, and any traffic towards the clearnet will go through our VPN servers.

RILink models

  • The Valkyrie class is based on the DIR-600 modem. It supports wireless-n and OpenWRT. It will come with a fairly minimal set of software packages preinstalled, though you can use the admin interface to install more.
  • The Midgard class will be based on used laptops that are in good condition. While more expensive than Valkyries, they will also come with a more extensive set of preinstalled packages, including Tor. The biggest reason that this is a step up, though, is that it comes with a battery. The portable design inherent in laptops means that your node will stay up during power outages, and that means better network resilience against natural disasters, like Hurricane Sandy.
  • The Asgard class is like the Midgard class, only with new laptops.