The End of the Wired World

Wondering what's next for the internet?

Guest Blogger Jefferson Smith lives in Boston, Massachusetts and works as a political and marketing consultant. In between writing speeches and making democracy safe for all, he obsesses over the latest innovations in electronics and the internet. You can read his personal blog coming soon at

Here's his article for readers of

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We may see the end of residential cable and DSL providers within the next decade.

Not that broadband is unsatisfying (in fact, I'm pretty sure pornographic sites saw their subscriber numbers sky rocket concurrently with broadband sales), but new, exciting and free services are emerging that will eventually put broadband providers onto the same backburner that AOL has been occupying for the past 5 years.

The simple fact is that internet users are vying for a more portable connection that they can carry everywhere and do anything with.

This development is unfortunate for monolithic companies like Verizon who are just now playing catch-up with broadband providers like Comcast, RCN and Cox. A recent feature in the New York Times illustrated that Verizon was just now wiring the greater NYC area with fiber optic line in order to be more competitive with broadband providers.

Cable SpagettiCable Spagetti I might be mistaken, but isn't this 2006? Sure, we like our wireless routers in our homes, but wouldn't it be better if we didn't have all this bulky equipment laying around our offices, living rooms and kitchens? Wires still connect these devices to our walls and unfortunately, the "cable spaghetti" was merely moved off our desks and is now on our floors. Not much progress if you ask me.

Now imagine a world where none of this existed. Someone has come along, taken your wires and ordered a mass execution of your connection equipment. They have made life for you even simpler. All you need now is a wireless internet card and you're cruising the web and checking e-mail anytime, anywhere.

Kids, what we're visualizing is not far off. Cities throughout the country are moving into the wireless business in order to provide free Wi-Fi access to all of their residents. You can have access in your house, at your local coffee shop, down on the corner, out in the street.

Cupcake T-shirtCupcake T-shirt

Imagine: no more forty dollars a month for cable internet or DSL. Just like most phones no longer have cords, city governments have been keen to recognize that personal computers are cutting the same leash. And they are doing it without knowing they will soon be sending the Comcasts and Verizons scrambling for a competitive alternative.

Sheesh, there's already a book and a magazine about this movement, and only a few cities have been wired for test phases.

So what does this all mean? It means that there is enormous opportunity just simmering below the surface. If cities move to provide this service for free, they will need a way to keep it free. Bandwidth will be in short supply and if the idea becomes popular - which it will - more and more people will refuse to pay the $30 to $50 fee for tethered access.

Wireless MagazinesWireless MagazinesNow tell me this isn't the most insane occasion for small Internet Service Provider's (ISP's) to jump over the broadband infrastructure and leave the likes of already-struggling-Verizon in the past. Sure, you'll need to attach your Wi-Fi system to a backbone (like a screaming-fast 2 Gigabyte per second connection), but aren't their millions of ISP's out there that would provide such a service at cut-rate prices? I'm sure there are. Hell, I'll do it for you - if you don't mind blood indirectly staining your hands.

Look, we're talking about free wireless access for everyone who steps foot inside a city's borders. We're talking about a costumer base in the millions that is looking for easy to use, lightweight and portable computer equipment.

And we're also talking about $100 laptops.

You read that right. One hundred dollars. For a laptop. Someone already come up with an idea that can profit from a city installing Wi-Fi.

Invented by Nicholas Negroponte at MIT Media labs, the $100 laptop is a Linux-based, 500Mhz, flash memory-driven box made for connecting to Wi-Fi hubs. The Governor of Massachusetts has already proposed legislation on the order of $54 million to buy one of these laptops for every elementary school student in state.

Having started my career in the dial-up business, I've become intimately familiar with market movements away from outmoded computer utilities. When the dotcom bubble burst, I had already been laid off from a dial-up company because they couldn't keep their customer base as a result of broadband's speed, reliability and non-phone-line connection. Something came along for dial-ups that was better and faster and now something else is coming along for broadband that is easier and cheaper.

Wi-Fi is it, folks. Even if you don't possess laptop-making skills, you might want to invent a nice messenger bag that has trendy looks that you can sell to kids like a happy pill. If you're an on-call geek, this may be the boon that your business is looking for. Everyone with a computer is going to need to connect to a brand new network and confused grandma's are going to need you and your Star Trek sweater to arrive at their door to help them.

But whatever you do, start thinking. Maybe you have something already in the works that will benefit from this. Maybe you needed to read this article to get a shot in the arm. Maybe you just like me. Whatever the case, I'm here for you honey and you forget it. Now let's see what we can come up with.

Jefferson Smith
Guest Blogger

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