Roaming Initiative is a new company devoted to furthering internet freedom and establishing a new model for ISP infrastructure.
RI is the world’s first CJDNS VPN ISP. That’s a mouthful, so let’s shorten all those acronyms into “CVI”. We’re the world’s first CVI. But what does that even mean?
CJDNS is a great transitional mesh network technology. It can act like an overlay network on top of the normal internet (or, “clearnet”). It can fuse together crazy local IPv4 setups. It can operate on top of existing mesh tech like OLSR and B.A.T.M.A.N. for efficient, encrypted, onion-routed communication. And best of all, it’s designed to connect all this stuff together in a single clean IPv6 address space. So no matter what wonky setup your local network has, CJDNS will give you a sane IPv6 layer to work with.
CJDNS is not just some pie-in-the-sky vaporware either. Hyperboria is a live network of connected CJDNS nodes running right now, and this site is available on it. As long as your CJDNS-enabled machine can talk to a node in Hyperboria, you’re part of that network. Hyperboria is worldwide, secure, and protects your privacy.
Of course, unlike Tor, it doesn’t provide access to the clearnet. You use CJDNS to talk to other CJDNS machines. So while CJDNS is designed to eventually replace the clearnet as a more secure solution, there is currently no way to get to sites like reddit, Google, and Facebook through it, so it isn’t a practical option to just get all your internet through CJDNS.
A Virtual Private Network, or “VPN”, is a virtual network protected by packet encryption. People who are already familiar with VPNs may be able to understand CJDNS easier by thinking of it as one gigantic decentralized VPN.
VPNs are commonly used in corporate offices around the world for things like firewalls and traffic filtering for all employees. All traffic to the outside world goes through the VPN. We use the same technique at RI, but to enhance your freedom, rather than filter it.
We host a VPN on Hyperboria that customers can access. This allows customers to forward their clearnet traffic over Hyperboria and through our VPN server to the outside world. We never log what our customers do, what sites they contact, etc. Neither do we do any filtering. This is basically just a way to use existing, proven open-source software (OpenSwan) to provide a secure and private gateway between Hyperboria and the clearnet.
ISP stands for “Internet Service Provider.” If you’re reading this, you probably already have one, and depending on where you live, it might be Comcast, Warner Cable, HughesNet, etc. It’s the people you call angrily when the inept construction worker 2 blocks down cuts into your internet cable with a backhoe (not counting your nephew “who is good with computers”).
ISPs, especially in America, thrive on a lack of competition. It’s somewhat rare to live somewhere where you actually have a choice of provider. In most places, “you get what you get and you don’t throw a fit.” Because of this, ISP companies are founded on large collections of local monopolies, where they crank prices up to extortion levels before people will stop paying (especially thanks to termination fees in contracts, and various other contractual landmines designed to lock customers in). This is the advantage to being the only game in town.
We think that’s terrible.
Our goal is to provide our ISP services over Hyperboria - anyone who can connect to that network, can connect to the rest of the internet through us. You can be anywhere in the world, and long as you can connect to Hyperboria, your internet will work. We’re hoping this will promote the replacement of last-mile hardware like cable modems with wireless mesh devices. This means greater infrastructure stability in the event of a natural disaster, which is a nice feature of physical meshes, but it also means that anyone can just set up an ISP in a couple days based on our open-source software.
Now, it might seem silly to intentionally sabotage competitive advantage and local monopolies, which have been the defining underhanded tactics in the arena of ISP competition. User choice is fantastic for users, but doesn’t that hurt our bottom line?
Well yes, of course it does. We’re pioneering a new field, and putting more on the line up front than anybody else. But it doesn’t matter, we aren’t in it for the money. The money is a means to accomplish our philosophical dreams of user freedom and internet privacy. As long as we make enough to do that, we’re happy with our part in the global economy. We’re happy to provide an option that respects users and forces other ISPs to do the same to be competitive. We’re happy to open up the field to anyone who want to try their hand at bandwidth reselling. And we’re very happy to see the rise of MicroISPs that make it all but impossible to enforce surveillance on individuals.
Who we are, and where we’re at now.
At the time of this blog post, my excessive use of the pronoun ‘we’ is a little bit disingenuous. There’s just me, Philip Horger, CEO of RI. But I hope to be able to expand the company with any leftover profits from the company, really turn it into something like the Red Hat of ISPs. Being able to hire people like Caleb Delisle to work on CJDNS full time, for example, would be fantastic.
Presently, this company is only in its beggining stages, practically a hobby project. While having great funding from a secondary job is nice, it also takes a lot of my time away from being able to build the foundations and technical architecture of the CVI system. So public availability for this service will be awhile yet.
I have some hardware for RILink devices already purchased (see the about page for more about that), a Linode server rented, and a fairly clear idea what software I’ll need to glue together for all the various parts of the project. Because everything I’m using is already free software, and my own glue/config code will all be (L)GPL and hosted on Github, it will be fantastically easy for others to set up their own servers and contribute code that makes things better for RI.
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