What’s standing between you and this storm of creative destruction? What there is, isn’t very stout. It’s all subject to the whimsy of politics. Other than a couple of antiquated 1938 FCC regulations (limits on wireless relay and encryption) and a 1990s quash of public networks (limiting wifi signal to 1W), there’s not much holding the planetary mesh back.
The technologies have moved faster than the laws. Several P2P encryption technologies are already mature. WhatsApp and BitTorrent are making news, and there are plenty of others gaining users. Mesh routing protocols are prevalent in most all consumer wifi devices such as home routers and consumer phones. The code and hardware are there, just waiting to be enabled. We’ve already seen examples of when that happens, such as when the Chinese government turned off the network of its protesters but they didn’t skip a beat.
So the barriers to planetary datastream are getting shakier. Governments know this, which is why there’ve been so many interventions in the past two years in areas of net neutrality, encryption, and spectrum delineation.
Why do governments try so hard? Because today’s government still resembles the ancient feudal system. The economic “feudal lords” (great big companies like Comcast, Facebook, and Microsoft) pay more tribute so their interests are taken more seriously. For serfs, privacy is only as good as the terms and conditions we agreed to when we use cloud based software. Our access to copyrighted materials is only as convenient as the intellectual property rights protections of our feudal lords allow. Everyone’s security is only as good as our feudal lords’ and governments’ defenses.
When we have been faced with society-wide storm clouds like these, 10,000 years of human history (and especially the past 2,000) illustrate a tendency to centralize power. That’s not going to work this time. To think the governments have the power to legislate a solution is outright ignorance, even if you naively believe they could come up with a workable one.
If a small firm like What’sApp with just 50 engineers can successfully build and deploy an end-to-end encrypted, bulletproof, 900 million user messaging network, what will happen when large technology firms follow their example and make mesh networking a primary revenue stream?
We’re already seeing the indicators. The telltale is that most of the major providers have been positioning themselves in the content market, while the content companies learn to function as network-less providers. Verizon’s curious $4.4 billion purchase of AOL is one example; Google’s Loon project is another. Those companies know that regulatory bodies tend move at a snail’s pace and they are pushing hard with technology that will let them get out in front of government. It’s already happening.
When this becomes widely understood the resistance will be fierce. Government will try to own the rules because that’s what government does … remember the feudal roots of our current, centralized system? Of course there will be regulatory challenges to this new disruptive technology, mostly from the existing telecom giants whose business models were threatened before they could evolve into different kinds of businesses.
But the force of the technology is too great, and with mesh networks and operating systems in every nook and cranny, the pushback will be blown away. New government regulations will be attempted, but the creative destruction force of this technology is too great. Individual privacy and intellectual property rights will take a beating during the transition. What’s a person or a company to do?
The answer relies on understanding that this is no dystopian future. People are wired with the innate desire for low-cost, decentralized products and services and we like privacy and choice. New technology solutions that meet these criteria tend to succeed—look at AirBnB and Uber. The planetary mesh will soon meet these criteria in the broadest way imaginable.
So it won’t be long before the wifi mapping data collected by Google through their maps initiative combines with real-time location information of Android and IOS devices, plus ancillary services like Google Fiber, Loon, and Nest, to ease the planetary mesh through its infancy.
Like any new technology there will be growing pains but the future’s very bright indeed, with huge upside for companies that can navigate at this intersection of service and content. So how can your company take advantage of this planetary datastream?
I’ll spell that out in a blog posted alongside this one. For now just be sure that that you hold the future in the palm of your hand and the discussion we all should be having is whether the use of the wireless spectrum is a collective right or an individual right. The planetary datastream via the mesh will be here before you know it.