In November of 2005, I wrote this blog post as a kind of tongue-in-cheek presagement. I was thinking about how an unregulated connected future might unfold. I made a very "low tech" Web site (as a joke) using images I found around the net and just forgot to take it down. Over the past few weeks, I have received several emails and telephone calls about the WiMax Price Club. Apparently, there are some folks out there who think it is real. Maybe it should be...
They're popping up all over America — in backyards everywhere — it's the latest do-it-yourself craze – the WiMax Price Club. Want free Internet access for life? No problem. Just go to http://www.WiMaxPriceClub.com and order your tower kit online. When it arrives, get your building permit (if required by local zoning laws) and erect your new 80' antenna tower in your back yard or on your rooftop. Just plug in the included WiMax repeater and you'll be online in a jiffy! Imagine over 70 megabits up and down, FREE for life! Nothing else to buy; no salesman will call you. Offer void where prohibited. Your actual results may vary. Batteries not included.
This is the first mutual Internet access club. It represents the total democratization of Internet access and the total disintermediation of the established telephone and cable infrastructures. The WiMax Price Club has purchased a bunch of dark fiber from a defunct CDN and lit it up with their own hardware. The Club's central offices are conveniently located very close to your home, so your tower and repeater are all that is needed to surf free and download at will. Share the connection with your friends, you can charge a small override or just let them enjoy the fruits of your labor. Maybe they'll kick in a few bucks and help you purchase your tower and erect it. After all, free is free – but that doesn't mean you can't make a little money! Put up your own portal software, you're the master of your 70 megabit domain and the 10 mile Area of Dominant Internet Access around your house.
Imagine free telephones using Skype, free movies and videos using Bittorrent, free surfing for all of your WiFi enabled devices – pretty soon, free wireless VoIP handsets to replace your cell phones. This is the brave new world and nothing can stop ordinary citizens from becoming part of the whole for the greater good. Free is very pro consumer and it's time to take control of that nasty content bill. Why pay hundreds of dollars each month for cable television, land line telephones, old fashioned broadband – get connected to the only Internet that's for the people, by the people – The WiMax Price Club.
Do you think this is science fiction? It is nowhere near as far-fetched as it sounds. Yes, the new 802.16 (WiMax) specification is super exciting, unapproved and very misunderstood. But this type of technology and my hypothetical homegrown technological rebellion could easily happen. In fact, commercial versions will absolutely happen – well before 2009.
We are living in a world with several old (mostly mortgaged) infrastructures and our very high monthly bills help pay down that debt. The cable systems and telephone companies have operated for the better part of the last three decades under the belief that we had nowhere else to go. Now, they are fighting amongst themselves: Cable vs. Satellite, Satellite vs. Telco, Telco vs. Cable and the CE manufacturers have yet to weigh in. While these various factions duke it out, they will not be paying too much attention to Google trying to give everyone in San Francisco free Internet access or a similar business plan like the WiMax Price Club. But, we do have choices. It may not be WiMax, it may not be an existing protocol or specification, but as soon as the prices get too insane, it will be something.
Internet access is a commodity and the downward price pressure on it is extreme. When everyone has almost free wireless broadband Internet access we are going to have an explosion of new technologies unlike any that has been seen since the beginning of the industrial age. You name the category; there is a need for free two-way wireless connectivity. Medical, Education, Automotive, Telecom, Media, Entertainment, Manufacturing, Retail, the list is practically endless. When will the WiMax Price Club become a reality? As soon as you will it to happen. All you have to do is join. Visit the website and get on the mailing list today!
Well here it is 2009 and, although I didn't get my dates quite right and WiMax may be replaced by LTE or some other wireless broadband protocol, the concept of the people taking control of the airwaves is probably worth discussing.
As you know, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 directed the FCC to submit a National Broadband Plan to Congress by February 17, 2010 that addresses broadband deployment, adoption, affordability, and the use of broadband to advance solutions to national priorities, including health care, education, energy, public safety, job creation, investment, and others. So, in the spirit of getting a Socratic dialog going, please contemplate a future where the WiMax Price Club might exist. Is it a future that interests you? Would a future that includes this kind of connected America help our country be the digital super-power of the 21st century? Is there a digital Sam Walton in our broadband future? The FCC wants to hear from you. Please visit http://www.broadband.gov and get involved in the discussion.
Shelly Palmer is the host of MediaBytes with Shelly Palmer, a daily show featuring news you can use about technology, media & entertainment. He is the author of Television Disrupted: The Transition from Network to Networked TV (2008, New York House Press) and the upcoming, Get Digital: Reinventing Yourself and Your Career for the 21st Century Economy. (2009, Lake House Press). Shelly is also President of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, NY (the organization that bestows the coveted Emmy Awards). For information about Get Digital Classes, visit http://www.shellypalmer.com/seminars
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