A modem in every pot

A modem in every pot

: With blanket wi-fi coming to Philadelphia and San Francisco, Fred Wilson says:

It’s happening. Wifi is going to be public infrastructure like roads, tunnels, and bridges.

I’d say it’s even more fundamental than that: wi-fi will get faster and broader and will provide most all the communication and content delivery you will need. And this will enable no end of new business and employment (and will reduce commuting and fuel consumption and all kinds of other social good).

So since I’m in a rewording mood today, I’d say this really means that connectivity will be public infrastructure.

: Om says it’s a waste of taxpayer money. Oh, but I assume this isn’t a free bridge; it’s a toll bridge. Hell, it could be a profit center.

  • I wouldn’t assume it’s a toll bridge. Bandwidth is well on its way to becoming a commodity. We’re still early days, for sure. But as the quantity of available bandwidth increases, you can rest assured competition (and gov’t-sponsored projects like the one in Philadelphia) will push the price closer to free over time.
    Why? Well for the very reason of supporting the vast array of content that has started to, and will continue to, come down the pipe in the future. The money’s still in the content (and the advertising), and while I can envision users paying for subscriptions and PPV entertainment over the pipe, the future of content and service delivery absolutely relies on the bandwidth being ubiquitous. And the required ubiquity is going to force a bandwidth price point of “free”.
    As more and more devices become integrated into the network, wired and/or wireless, this is going to become irrelevant. The infrastructure is going to be all around us, and the idea of a central backbone may well give way to a mesh network (probably a device-to-device mesh network as opposed to the current antenna-on-the-roof-connected-to-a-modified-router-type mesh network).
    Think about the first time you noticed a neighbor’s wi-fi network. Or, for those wardriving geeks out there, how many hotspots do you see when you go drive up a city street. I’d be willing to bet that you could walk 34th St. from the Hudson to the East, right now, without being in a spot where you can’t see a network. They may be closed, at least for now, but they exist. And how many years do you think it will be before you can do that in the suburbs? At some point somebody’s going to figure out that this kind of coverage is useful. And at that point, things shift.
    We’ll essentially be building the network ourselves, and the cost will likely be built into the price of the devices and content that we pay for. Think about it… people pay for cable or satellite television, and they believe they’re paying for the content — not the infrastructure. The infrastructure, people believe they’re entitled to.
    The idea of paying X dollars a month for bandwidth is bound to die. Not a fast death, to be sure, but over time a certain one.