Friday, March 16, 2007
The battle for access to the net has begun in earnest. On one side are the Telcos and Cable companies, on the other is WiFi, the love child of municipalities (wireless connects to online government services save billions) that promises free access to anyone equipped with a computer within distance of a WiFi node. Why is this important? It's important because WiFi points a dagger at the heart of the Verizons of the world who deem it their right to be the sole provider of the last mile connect to the web to your home or business without interference of any particular town or city. This was the case with Philadelphia, PA whereby they told Verizon and the state government to buzz off when they installed a city wide WiFi for their citizens using Free Speech as the mechanism to squelch the Verizon attempt to kill WiFi. As a result, WiFi now rules in the City of Brotherly Love. Ditto for Boston who is working with a non profit to do the same as is New Orleans.
What most people don't know is that the lines in the street are not controlled by the cable companies or telcos as different service providers use the fiber without a problem. It's the connect to the house that's controlled by the provider the homeowner pays to make the link to the net. When WiFi is factored into the equation, the need for T/Cvs is no longer a given given the fact Skype can run off the net for telephone via WiFi and "naked" access to content providers for video (Fox, Apple, NBC etc., etc.)is just a browser click away without the need to use T/CV "selected" channels keyed to the best interest of the T/Cv provider.
The threat to Net Neutrality is also real as T/Cvs want to pander to big video users as this burnishes the bottom line to the detriment of the web as a whole because the Net is based on open standards with equal access to all urls. If the Net is turned into a two tier system, proprietary tech keyed to the service provider inevitably raises it ugly head and the net, in this country , will go down the tubes because closed systems on the web will not work. Sir Tim Berners-Lee/Save the Internet Blog eloquently pointed this out at a congressional hearing last week.
Maybe when Mike Blomberg retires as NYC Mayor, he can give WiFi as a parting gift because $400-500 million won't break the bank to a guy worth about 6 billion. How about it Mike? It would be the right thing to do.