bandwidth

I travel a lot. My life is shaped as such that most of what I do can be done from anyplace in the world, as long as my laptop has access to the internet. Because I am so often away from home (where in London I have fiber optic at my apartment) I find myself constrained by the availability of wireless networks. Everyplace I go I must find a network that I can connect to that will not just allow me internet access but, if I can find it, give me considerable bandwidth. (Movies are huge files!)

More often than not I must find a private network that does not have encryption enabled. Thus I can airsurf freely and do what I do without going to a library or cafe.

In the major cities of the US and EU this is not really a problem. In any relatively populated area there exists dozens of networks, and almost always someone has left their encryption off and is sharing their internet to the world, knowingly or not. But outside of the big cities this access to info falls off very fast. In my parents town there are no wireless networks in any range of their home, even though they live close to the center of a 75,000 population town. They have cable internet. But no one uses wireless it seems.

In the 21 century we exist in a stream of data unheard of even 20 years ago. The way in which we interact with all forms of electronic communication and data is astoundingly complex. We can know anything that can be known by accessing the huge infrastructure of data that is the web. We can do so from the tiniest devices and be almost anyplace to do so.

What is to me the biggest issue is the strange growth of redundant systems evolving to get the data to us. Cable, fiber, copper, GRMS, Wifi all compete with each other to bring us the data we need and want. But why do they compete when by cooperation they could be giving us so much more.

Take cell phones for instance. Each mobile phone is a send and receive device with a processor many times bigger than some of my early computers. As we walk around the city (and the world really) we are being tracked by the cellular networks around us. Moving from one cell (or group of communication towers) to another without loosing our connection.

But each mobile phone is capable of being part of a larger packet processing network. Data could just as easily be transmitted from phone to phone across the network instead of through the towers. This kind of processor sharing is already current in the backbone of the web, why not implement this in our mobile networks? The upswing of utilizing a mobile to mobile intranet would be a reduction of strain on the towers and in areas where data demand is the highest (say an office building in a metropolitan area) there exists an exponential increase in the presence of mobile phones, thus the resolution of the network would be highest where demand is the highest. The future of bandwidth exists in an organically evolving model of data infrastructure.

But I digress. In the current setup only one out of every 10 people leaves their wifi bandwidth open to the public, most of these unknowingly. There are many reasons for having a secure network but in the end your computer is only really safe offline. Why not create open networks that give a percentage of your bandwidth allowance to the public? If everyone paying for bandwidth in Chicago “donated” a portion of their total bandwidth to open internet protocols then the entire city would be able to have internet access without diminishing the bandwidth of the paying customers.

In the end access to information, at least certain basic information like news, weather, dictionary, wikipedia (though it has some problems of its own), should be available to everyone all of the time without cost. Like a glass of water. We live in the information age, are we not free?

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