HOUSTON - Most people don't use all the internet bandwidth they pay for each month. Now some people have started selling what they don't use.
It's a relatively new concept. So how does it work? And is it safe?
Here's the idea. Unless you download a lot of big files or run several applications at the same time, you likely don't use all the internet bandwidth you pay for at home, especially while you sleep.
You can sell your unused bandwidth, for cash or cryptocurrency, to companies or platforms that usually operate as VPN's, or Virtual Private Networks, where other people or businesses can use that bandwidth. It's kind of like sharing energy with your neighbors from rooftop solar panels.
We asked one platform, PKT, to explain.
"That's been a super inspiring part about the project, seeing people have this lightbulb go off. Realizing they have internet, they pay for it 24/7, but they might not be at their home or office 24/7 using that internet, and it's essentially going to waste. And you can turn that into profit," explained Jesse Berger, co-founder of PKT.
Companies that enable you to sell your bandwidth have included Honey Gain, FluidStack, PacketStream, Privatix, Nanowire, Packity, Lethean, Intabank, and Mysterium Network.
PKT is not a company but describes itself as a decentralized, high-speed data network powered by the people, aimed at providing faster and lower-priced internet access.
"That's something that we're trying to do differently, which is you get to be part of that network, and own that network, and understand that network," said Caleb James DeLisle, PKT lead developer.
Is selling your unused bandwidth safe? Many of these platforms say they don't access your data or files and block users from going to harmful websites.
"It always goes to their VPN provider. So that you're protected from what they're doing on the internet, and they're protected from you potentially snooping on what they're doing," said DeLisle.
But cybersecurity experts, like James Meadows at Rice University, urge you to be cautious, saying you may not know who could be using that internet access.
"My recommendation would be if you're going to do this, to use some sort of VPN that encrypts traffic going back and forth on your computer, so other people won't be able to use this to intercept your traffic," said Meadows.
How much money can you expect to make? Experts say you might expect to make a few hundred dollars a year.
Even many tech experts are taking a wait-and-see approach to see how this concept develops. If you decide to sell your bandwidth, make sure you choose a platform that will keep your online information safe, and prevent bad actors from using your IP address.