Moving at the Speed of Creativity by Wesley Fryer

Dreams of Open, Wireless Broadband Access and High Speed Rural Connectivity

Do you have ridiculously fast and cheap wireless Internet access where you live? Probably not. Free wifi hotspots abound in many US cities and towns today, but data plans for wireless connectivity remain fairly expensive and coverage areas get sparse fast in rural areas. LightSquared is one company seeking a new era of ubiquitous connectivity via satellite links as well as repeating towers for mobile Internet users, but has run into controversy over the portion of the wireless spectrum it proposes using that could create conflicts for GPS users. The following two minute video gives an overview of LightSquared’s vision for ubiquitous, open, wireless broadband access.

I hope the spectrum conflict issues will be resolved and we’ll see LightSquared along with other companies bring more high speed networking solutions to market which can serve rural as well as urban populations. WildBlue is another company offering “high-speed satellite Internet” access, but WildBlue offers services NOW. LightSquared is still working to get technical issues resolved so they can start selling their services. A few years ago, a friend of mine in rural Oklahoma tried the WildBlue service and was very disappointed in its speed. The download speed was comparable to ISDN in his location (about twice as fast as a dialup connection… far from “high speed” by today’s standards) and uploads had to go over his phone line. He was underwhelmed. I’m not sure how many improvements WildBlue has made to their service in the intervening five years, but I’m sure it’s at least slightly better.

Have you tried or do you use a satellite service for your “high speed” Internet connectivity? If so, what do you use and what do you think?

When our family moved from Edmond into Oklahoma City this past spring, I was amazed to learn Cox Communications now offers a fourth tier of home Internet service: Max download speeds of 55 Mbps! The offer terms specify this speed is NOT guaranteed, and does not specify the maximum upstream bandwidth. The Cox-contracted installer who set up our third tier / slower residental connectivity plan thought it could reach 20 Mpbs upstream but I haven’t seen that in writing. The current cost for Cox’s “High Speed Internet Ultimate” service is $99 per month. The service also requires customers purchase a new, special modem different from standard cable modems.

Ultimate Internet Overview, High Speed Wideband Internet serving Oklahoma City | Cox Communications

The federal eRate program has been around for over ten years now, and HAS brought faster connectivity to most of our schools and libraries in the United States. The explosion of wifi-capable devices, and particularly mobile devices, however, is far outstripping the capacity of many school networks to deliver connectivity. It’s exciting to see videos like this one from LightSquared and dream of faster connectivity access ANYWHERE on the planet. Like most cutting edge technologies today, however, those kinds of speeds are certain to come at a steep price. For now. Hopefully our economic consciousness can be altered so as taxpayers and consumers, we start to demand bandwidth/connectivity as a public utility like water, electricity, gas, sewer and trash service. We’ve got a ways to go changing that perception, however. I’d like to learn about advocacy groups NOT funded by telcos who are working on that goal.

Via the NPR Technology Podcast for June 15, 2011.

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