Fight for a wireless Internet being lost

It is in the government's best interest to guarantee a Network outcome rather than a wireless Internet. With proprietary networks, the value lies in their spectrum. On the Internet value lies elsewhere -- hardware, sites, and the economic growth created by people making full use of the spectrum.

high speed wireless Internet from Sandersville Georgia
"The Network" is not the Internet.

The Internet is a network-of-networks with open standards and fierce competition, assuring the lowest possible prices, the best possible service terms, and a market guarantee that if your ISP doesn't let you do what you want you can leave.

The Network is an ad slogan for a proprietary network with a shared monopoly, which charges what it wants, offers whatever terms suit it best, and can do what it wants to customers because they have no viable choice.

Today the wireless Internet is limited to coffee houses, a few municipal WiFi operations, some rural WISPs, and your front porch, if you have a WiFi router. (Picture from Sandersville, Georgia. Go Hawks!)  

Everything else in the wireless world is The Network. Whether you use Verizon, AT&T, or some other carrier, your terms of service give that carrier control over what you can do online, and allow you no way to route around it.

The coming 700 MHz spectrum auction will determine whether the wireless Internet ever amounts to more than a few islands in a Network stream.

Google's announcement it will participate in that auction is a positive sign. But there is no guarantee it can win a national network footprint and, frankly, no guarantee that will result in a true wireless Internet alternative.

The reason is that spectrum is more valuable to a proprietary bidder than an open one. A proprietary bidder can charge a monopoly price for access, can ignore network neutrality and charge sites for the right to reach "its" customers. An open Internet system can't.

It is in the government's best interest to guarantee a Network outcome rather than a wireless Internet. With proprietary networks, the value lies in their spectrum. On the Internet value lies elsewhere -- hardware, sites, and the economic growth created by people making full use of the spectrum.

We're left to hope Google wins at auction and that Google decides to do something which would not appear to be in its economic interest -- offer a true wireless Internet service.

All the speculation of Google not needing a carrier partner, including my own, is based on the assumption the company has an enormous "dark fiber" network, ready to be switched-on.

But does it? What condition is its unlit fiber in? Can it really be used, and if so at what speed? How much would it cost to upgrade that fiber with the latest DWDM gear and optical switches?

view from inside the Googleplex
What would it cost to link this network to cell towers? How much would it cost to build a WiMax network with enough capacity to justify lower user prices (and make it up on volume)?

No one knows outside the Googleplex.

And Google is the only "white knight" with the financial wherewithal and motivation to create a true wireless Internet.

The alternative strategy is political. We the people own the electromagnetic spectrum, not the government, not Verizon. We own it. We have the power to change our leaders and demand a wireless Internet.

But I don't see anyone leading any mob to those barricades, either.

Without a wireless Internet, the open Internet will be lost. Without an open Internet open source cannot survive.

The fight for a wireless Internet is still being lost.

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