given the uncertainties of the world, I would pay at least double for a licence that didn't need to phone home.
That's easy to do, if that's all you really want. But usually people want more.
For example, they don't just want a license, they want a license that can be installed and re-installed many times after hardware upgrades, or easily moved to a different machine when you buy a new computer, and so on. And they don't want any "complicated" procedures involved in any of that. They want it all to be automatic, for example, moving to a new computer without having to deactivate on the old (in case the old computer is lost or inoperative). Using Internet makes it possible to profoundly simplify such procedures, to the point they don't even exist.
What Manifold is working on will do all that for completely offline situations as well: very easy, no complicated procedures. Creating that is definitely non-trivial development, so it will take some time.
In the meantime, there's a very simple alternative that could be done immediately, as in the very next build. It's not totally off-grid in that you'll need Internet access when you initially install and activate, but after that, you could go totally off grid and never be in contact with Internet again.
Manifold could introduce a single activation license. Call it an "off grid" or "Expedition" license. Buy that and you get a serial number that can activate a license just one time on one computer. You'd need Internet access to activate the license on that computer, but after that you could go off grid with that computer, with no need for even occasional Internet access.
Once activated, you could uninstall and install Manifold however many times you wanted on that computer. You could authorize new user logins on that computer. You could install new updates, like new Edge builds or Base builds with no need for re-activation. As long as your computer hardware does not change significantly (as is usually the case with portable computers used far away from Internet) and you don't do massive changes to Windows, it could run forever.
You could not move the license to a different computer. Want to run on a different computer? Buy another license. At $95 that's not expensive. Make a massive change to the computer like a new motherboard and totally new Windows installation? Buy another license.
It wouldn't have the conveniences of the current system, like endless regrowth of activations and thus endless moves to new systems, but it would be very simple and inexpensive, and not twice the cost of a current license. If 9 were priced more sensibly, like in the $245 range, such a single activation license would probably sell at a discount. But at $95 there's no room to go lower so it probably would be only $95.
How does that sound as a "no Internet" option?