We've considered two main mechanisms for an incentivized mesh network so far. Pay for forward is the mechanism laid out in Althea v1, and Hocnet. Pay for internet is something I've been working on as Althea v2 and it is also kind of how ISPs work now. This is a brief summary of both approaches.
Pay for forward
- A (secured) routing protocol propagates price along with the route quality metric. The routing protocol makes routing decisions based on the price and the metric.It is secured by running speedtests to destinations on the network and seeing how they match up to the advertised metrics. Using a "circular ack" speedtests can be reused many times by all the nodes on a route to a given destination. This also works with asymmetric routes.
- Nodes tally up what they are owed their neighbors according to which destinations the neighbors are sending packets to. Payments are settled with payment channels. If payments are not made, a node can stop forwarding a neighbor's packets using tunnels. On top of the pay-for-forward system, there is a gateway discovery and payment system. Somehow end-user nodes discover "gateway" nodes, nodes with a connection to the internet. Gateway nodes charge a certain amount for the internet connection. When a gateway is chosen by an end-user node, a payment channel is opened with that gateway. The gateway is paid for the amount of data used from the internet, as well as the amount that it cost the gateway to pay-for-forward to send the packets back to the end-user node. Gateways would need to be speedtested. Speedtests could be done between the end-user node and arbitrary servers on the internet.
Pay for internet
- Nodes pay each other for access to the internet.
- Some secure source of routes is neccesary, but it remains completely separate and unspecified by this scheme.
- A node which is closer to the internet will be paid to both send and receive packets on behalf of a node which is further away (upload and download connection).
- Nodes must discover and verify the quality of the internet access provided by their neighbors. This somewhat mirrors the quality metric discovery and verification in a secure routing protocol. To verify the upload quality of a neighbor, a node sends traffic to a speedtest server on the internet. To verify the download quality of a neighbor, a node has a speedtest server on the internet send it traffic. In most routing protocols, there will only be one upload neighbor and one download neighbor at once (and they will often be the same neighbor). However, if there are multiple upload or download neighbors, it would be very difficult to tell which one is responsible for the quality of a route.
- Nodes could tally up what they are owed by their downstream neighbors according to how much data they have sent or received on behalf of a given downstream neighbor. Payments are settled with payment channels. If payments are not made, a node can stop forwarding packets to or from a neighbor using tunnels.
- Instead of announcing an all-or nothing price for access, nodes could instead prioritize traffic to and from neighbors according to how much each neighbor was paying at a given time. This might allow a natural range of quality/price options. It makes access discovery and verification harder. How do you know how much a neighbor's quality will improve if you pay it more?