Bear with me as I explain an idea I had a few years ago regarding cryptocurrency and mesh networks, and let me know what you think:
As I'm sure most are familiar with here, the "last mile" problem refers to the incredible expense of wiring up a city for the last mile of connectivity. There are hundreds of times more wire to run (and the expense of running that wire is much greater per mile) to connect each house within a city, than to run connections between cities. That is a primary reason that there is virtually no competition for high speed internet access. For instance, at my house, there is exactly one high speed internet company: Comcast. However, if there were an inexpensive way to get internet to all the houses in the last mile, then the low cost of inter-city connectivity would drive down the cost of high speed internet (and drive up the speed).
Cellular service offers limited competition to broadband providers. However, cellular technology makes very poor use of spectrum and thus cannot provide nearly the bandwidth necessary to become a real competitor. To communicate with a single phone, each cell tower broadcasts a powerful signal over a broad swath of space, thus making that spectrum unavailable to communicate with other phones throughout that entire space. This inefficient use of spectrum places a severe constraint on the amount of data that be transmitted.
Mesh networks can use spectrum much more efficiently because they can broadcast very weak signals over very short distances. The weaker the signal the smaller the area monopolized by the transmission. If the signal is only strong enough to reach the neighboring house, virtually no area is monopolized. This leaves the spectrum available to all the other neighborhoods in the city to use simultaneously. With efficient use of spectrum, wireless transmission can provide faster connectivity and higher throughput than the best broadband providers currently offer. A simple illustration:
In the first image, user 1 monopolizes the spectrum for the entire neighborhood. In the second image user 1 monopolizes the spectrum for only a small area allowing user 2 to simultaneously transmit.
If mesh networking solves the last mile problem, why do broadband providers still have monopoly power in the broadband markets? Why are prices so high and speeds so slow? Mesh networks have a critical problem that has yet to be resolved. Mesh networks depend on wide spread participation to be effective but there is very little incentive to invest in hardware, electricity, setup costs, etc., in order to relay other people's data. To incentivize people to participate in the network, there needs to be some kind of payment for relaying data. Existing payment networks do not handle micropayments well. Bitcoin is better than traditional payment networks but its transaction costs are too high and confirmation times too slow.
To make a mesh network successful, there must be a payment network that can send pennies of value with confirmation times of just a few seconds. Very small transactions that are quickly confirmed will allow *streams* of payments to be sent in exchange for *streams* of data, reduce the opportunities to free loading and stealing, and eliminate the need for trust between anonymous nodes. Then each hop in the mesh network can charge according to how much data it is passing and what the cost of the alternative routes are. This will drive competition to install mesh nodes in busy areas of the network where they are needed most. If you happen to live in a busy area, you can buy a mesh wifi router, plug it into your wall and collect a stream of income everyday.
BTSX transaction times are too slow and transaction fees are too expensive. BUT, it may not be that way for long. BTSX is currently the closest of any payment network to meeting the requirements of such a mesh network. The actual cost of propagating, confirming and storing transactions is much lower than the current BTSX transaction fee, so the price has room to drop. And with certain protocol advances (based on knowledge of propagation times of competing double spend transaction, and delegate voting) it may be possible to "confirm" transactions before they are included in a block, thus achieving transaction times of just a few seconds. With transaction fees less than a penny and confirmation times of only a few seconds, streaming payments are a reality and a mesh network could thrive.
It would revolutionize the communications industry. It would compete with not just broadband providers but also cellular providers. It would eliminate the last mile problem and throw open the doors to competition. It would be a trillion dollar disruption.