I'm offering to be of service in this exercise by representing someone with enough knowledge to evaluate designs and proposals, but not an expert in networking. My actual background is in software development and operations, and I have a good foundation in hardware as well. Little work experience with hardware or networking, but I had the opportunity to take a VLSI design course as an undergraduate back in the '80s. My project had about 400-500 CMOS gate, and if I recall correctly it was to be fabricated in a 5 micron process.
So, to set up the scenario, I am recruiting a team to lead the establishment of a last-mile network in Chicago. We plan on building on existing infrastructure as possible and taking advantage of being in a competitive market for backhaul. We want to keep costs as low as possible because we want to offer free connections to those who can't afford it. Our revenue model will be more like public media than a typical network operator. Assume we will be able to raise $10-20/month/household connected.
First, is this reasonable? It is hard to assess the market costs of the network service components without actually getting service quotes and such. My understanding that the market was at about $10/symmetric Mb/sec/month a while back. Is there any reference that tracks this number in different markets? For Chicago, I expect to be able to find rates that are similar to most competitive markets, but the long term plan would offer services to establish similar networks in other locations. In that case, we would either need to find competitive local backhaul or transit services to a POP where they are.
I don't expect the network hardware to be a big monthly budget issue and the capital costs spread across a reasonable period and they disappear into the bandwidth costs. The Cumulus starter kit at about $50k with longer bits of fiber, dark fiber where it is already installed, or point-to-point radio links and such where that makes more sense would be enough to connect a number of neighborhoods.
There seem to be many solutions to bridge between our neighborhood backhaul and the customers. FTTB (business or block) plus wireless and local wire/fiber is what we would prefer, but wireless mesh could be used for more rapid build-outs. Ideally that would be RMP based appliances, and if they don't exist that's maybe another project to prototype nodes as educational projects for embedded hardware design.