Un-ending the Internet

Recently, The Nation ran an article,
The End of the
Internet
, that viewed with alarm some efforts
by telephone companies to hack their governing regulations so they can
price-discriminate. Their plans include tiered pricing so a consumer’s
monthly rate could be tied to the amount of bandwidth actually used. They
also want to be able to offer preferred fast access to on-line services
that pay for the privilege — and the flip side of that could
be shutting down services like peer-to-peer networking that big media
companies dislike.

One of my regular visitors. David McCabe, asked me what a libertarian
would do about this. A fair question, representative of a large class
of problems about what you do to constrain monopolies already in place
without resorting to more regulation.

Here’s the answer I gave him:

Deregulate and let the telcos have their tiered pricing — as long as
we also deregulate enough radio spectrum that the telcos
(evil monopolist scum that they are) will promptly be hammered flat by
wireless mesh networks.

David replied “Beautiful. Blog it.” Hence this screed…

The fundamental problem with the telecoms regime we have is that
the Baby Bells inherited from Mama Bell a monopoly lock on the last
mile (the cables running to end-users’ homes and businesses). More
backbone capacity would be easy and is in no way a natural monopoly,
especially given the huge overbuild of optical-fiber trunk lines
during the Internet boom of the 1990s. But the ‘last mile’, as long
as it’s wire lines, truly is a natural monopoly or oligopoly —
nobody wants more than one set of telephone poles per street, and
their capacity to carry wires is limited. That system doesn’t scale
up.

To a left-wing rag like The Nation, the answer is to
huff and puff about more regulation. But more regulation would do
nothing to attack the telcos’ real power position, which is the
physical constraints on the last mile. The truly pro-freedom anwer is
to enable the free market to take that power position away from
them.

Wireless mesh networking — flocks of cheap WiFi nodes that
automatically discover neighboring nodes and act as routers — is
the technology that can do that. With the right software, networks of
these can be self-configuring and self-repairing. It’s pure
libertarianism cast in silicon, a perfectly decentralist bottom-up
solution that could replace wirelines and the politico-economic
choke-point they imply.

The main thing holding wireless mesh networking back is the small
size of the bandwidth now allotted to it for spread-spectrum frequency
hopping. With enough volume, competition would drive the price of
these creatures to $20 or less per unit — low enough for
individuals and community organizations to spot them everywhere
there’s an electrical grid. Increments of capacity would be cheap,
too; with the right software, your WiFi card could aggregate the
bandwidth for as many nodes as there happen to be in radio range.

(And that software? Open source, of course. Mesh networking relies
on open source and open standards. Some of the node designs out there
are open hardware, too. The mesh network would be transparent, top
to bottom.)

Today, many people already leave their WiFi access points open for
their neighbors to use, even though DSL or cable costs real money,
because the incremental cost of being nice is negligible. At the
equilibrium price level of mesh networking, wireless free Internet
access would be ubiquitous everywhere except deep wilderness areas.

But the wireline backbone wouldn’t vanish, because mesh networking solves
the bandwidth problem at the expense of piling on latency (cumulative
routing and retransmission delays). Large communications users
would still find it useful to be hooked up to long-haul fiber networks
in order to hold down the amount of latency added by multiple hops over the
mesh. The whole system would self-equilibrate, seeking the most
efficient mix of free and pay networking.

As usual, the best solution to the problems of regulation and
imperfect markets is not more politics and regulation, but less of it
— letting the free market work. Not that I expect The
Nation
to figure this out soon, or ever; like all leftists,
they will almost certainly remain useful idiots for anyone, tyrant or
telco monopolist, who knows that political ‘solutions’ to market
problems always favor the powerful and politically connected over the
little people they are ostensibly designed to help.

80 thoughts on “Un-ending the Internet

  1. Couldn’t agree more ESR…however…none of this solves my problem. Where I live, we’re just a bunch of backwoods hillbillies as far as the telcos are concerned ;-) No DSL, no cable…nada.

    I’ve got to violate my tight-fisted scottish roots and stump up some outrageous sum of money for satellite broadband. Bastards.

    Despite being caught with my nuts in the vice, I still favour the free market rather than yet more clusterfucked regulations… :-)

    [Cue the hackneyed liberal droning of "fair pricing", "affordable access", "equal opportunity" and "bridging the economic technology gap"...blech]

  2. How good will Wimax be and when will it get here for residential customers?

    Also, I read about I company called FON that seems to be trying to do pretty much what you describe above.

  3. The telcos would still make plenty of bank off people like me who, regardless of how cheap and accessible wireless internet may be, still simply refuse to trust a network connection that doesn’t have a physical wire attached to it.

    Yes, I know I’m being stupid. I’ll get over it, but it took me long enough to get used to wireless phones, and my XBox 360 is only just convincing me that a wireless game controller can be reliable. I’ll cut my ethernet cable when I’m damn good and ready. ;)

  4. >cheap WiFi nodes
    What about the increasing challenge of getting FOSS drivers for wireless interfaces?
    Maybe it’s my tinffoil hat at work, but I detect some cartel-esque behavior, as configuring periferals of all sorts becomes increasingly challenging.

  5. W00t! I’m famous!

    It’s good to see your blog is back up to previous standards, Eric.

    The latency problem seems like a big deal to me. Lots of applications, including ones that are becoming common, depend on low latancy. If we need a land line to do VoIP, then I don’t see how the telcos’ monopoly is destroyed after all.

    Caliban: a mesh network is reliable because there would usually be several routes to a land line. Whereas if your ethernet cable gets chewed up by a mouse, you’re out in the cold.

    Lastly, what would libertarians prescribe in an alternate universe where wireless networking wasn’t feasible?

  6. >Lastly, what would libertarians prescribe in an alternate universe where wireless networking >wasn’t feasible?

    Lots of wires on the phone poles. And yes, this would suck pretty badly. But you did ask.

    I don’t rely on VoIP. I use a cellphone. (Yes, this is an answer to the implied critique. You’ll have more fun if you unpack it yourself.)

  7. Already in action – A local ISP started offering cheap monthly rates for 1Mbps if you bought the equipment. in about 3 months they became one of the largest ISPs in the area. and tons of people told Verizon – the local “I own the copper bezoytch” – to go to hell.

  8. Eric, aren’t you being too easy on the telcos? Why should they keep the spoils of Ma Bell’s monopoly, unchallenged, in perpetuity?

    The network got deregulated once with the breakup of AT&T, what’s wrong with deregulating some more, say by putting the lease(s) for rights-of-way and (telco) utility easements up for periodic auctions?

    Also, when it comes to the radio spectrum, the way blocks are currently packaged for auction and the distribution of the proceeds are optimized for the budgetary convenience of the administrations (previous, current and future). I think I would derive much higher value from a much more dynamic (short term) frequency lease scheme on most of the spectrum that is now given, indefinitely, to the likes of Verizon.

    I’m talking about near-real-time spectrum booking. What’s Verizon doing with all that good spectrum at 3AM when my PVR could instead be downloading the film I want to watch tomorrow evening, or a fat Debian update? Sure, they “resell” that spectrum, but read their terms of service, they’re a joke, and let’s not talk about their rates.

    The overall income stream flowing towards the collecting authorities from spectrum leases might decrease (which is not a given) but the net *value* of the spectrum would be much much higher.

    Why does the decision on how to monetize spectrum be made the same for all owners (i.e. citizens)? Give us each a spectrum coupon, and let the bidding begin!

  9. I still don’t see how WiFi mesh networking is going to be a telco killer. I mean sure…WiFi is really handy for running your laptop wireless across the room from your AP, or even a room or so away…but until and unless the range improves _dramatically_, it’s not even going to be suitable for use in very dense urban areas without a capital-intensive buildout…and with an effective range measured in feet, getting mesh networks out to the suburbs and exurbs where most people live nowadays is going to be more expensive than running new cable would be.

  10. Chris: the reason that open source wireless drivers are hard to get is because software these days is mostly defined by software. Thus, with the right driver, you could transmit on any frequency that your output stage can handle. The FCC gets remarkably grumpy about that and won’t give permission for completely open source wireless drivers. Same thing for winmodems. Of course, a libertarian will recognize this as the all too visible dead hand of government.
    -russ

  11. What ESR doesn’t understand about RF *and* the 802.11 MAC speaks volumes. I’m sure Eric means well, and he and I agree (shock shock!) on the solution being more (open) competition with the ILECs.

    Can scalable RF-based mesh networks be built? Yes, absolutely. Information theoretic proof is available.
    Can scalable 802.11 based mesh networks be built? No, absolutely not. The 802.11 MAC won’t scale. Information theoretic proof also available.

    I gave a design outline for a scalable fenceline based network in my blog a couple months ago. It uses a ‘fiber down the fenceline’ approach with FSO (google for “Ronja”) to cross the street. A few geeks could build such a network, and it could scale hundreds of city blocks using mostly off-the-shelf technology. The resulting network would have far more capacity than
    any imaginable wireless network, and cost far less to build.

    http://www.smallworks.com/archives/00000365.htm

    Matt: increased range is the enemy of scalable mesh networks.

    Russell also gets it wrong, and (sadly) by so doing, further spreads already oft-repeated misinformation.

    The FCC doesn’t care if your HAL or driver is open or not. The FCC cares if a manufacturer of equipment sells (or offers to sell) equipment that isn’t compliant with FCC regulations. (Go study at the commerce clause in the US Constitution if you don’t understand the difference.) The chipset vendors restrict the publication of HAL and/or driver source code via contract. They do so in order to comply with FCC regulations, which state, in part:

    § 15.15 General technical requirements.
    (a) An intentional or unintentional radiator shall be constructed in accordance with good engineering design and manufacturing practice. Emanations from the device shall be suppressed as much as practicable, but in no case
    shall the emanations exceed the levels specified in these rules.

    (b) An intentional or unintentional radiator must be constructed such that the adjustments of any control that is readily accessible by or intended to be accessible to the user will not cause operation of the device in violation of the regulations.

    Between ‘a’ and ‘b’, you’re screwed (at the FCC layer) if you violate the out of band emission standards of Part 15 (using a device you hope to certify under part 15 rules.)

    If you don’t like it, its a free market, and you are free to scrape some money together and bulld (or buy an existing/abandoned) 802.11 MAC and PHY, then have UMC or TSMC (or perhaps IBM) build the chipset you’ve designed (or purchased) in volume with *whatever* software you choose.

    Such might be an uneconomic decision for you, since few (if any) ODMs would use a chipset that couldn’t comply with ‘b’ (above), and this would result in a huge loss for your company. If you’re a publicly traded company (as are the major 802.11 chipset vendors), your stockholders will cry ‘foul’ when you spend on R&D with no hope of breaking even, much less making a profit.

    Still, its a free market, and you’re free to try. Quite literally there is nothing to stop you. Unless, of course, you want to import those devices from whence they were manufactured, or ship them interstate, or even offer them for sale out of state.

    Remember, they’re *chipsets*, and its unlikely that there is a foundry in Malven, PA or Potsdam, NY.

    You could put a couple FPGAs down on a board and actually build a real software defined WIFI router, but it wouldn’t have a COGS low enough for you to even begin to sell them for $20 (or even $2000) and make a profit.

  12. I’m sure you guys know this, but a polite reminder can’t hurt: there are plenty of reasons an intelligent person might choose to vote for liberal politicians besides an overwhelming desire to regulate the free market.

    Stupid US two party system.

  13. It doesn’t matter whether the 802.11 design itself scales (and I’m skeptical of ‘proofs’ that it won’t, for the same reasons I’m skeptical of ‘proofs’ that silicon density is bottoming out). There’s WiMax, and there’s UWB, and there will be lots of open-standard WiFi followons now that DSP and radio transceivers are available on programmable chips.

    With RF waveform shaping and signal processing reduced to a software problem, coming up with the ‘right’ variation on WiFi for scalable mesh networking becomes a classic example of the kind of optimization problem that is susceptible to a many-eyeballs attack. Which is why I am not worried about the technical side, but rather the politico-regulatory one.

  14. The FCC doesn’t care if your HAL or driver is open or not. The FCC cares if a manufacturer of equipment sells (or offers to sell) equipment that isn’t compliant with FCC regulations. (Go study at the commerce clause in the US Constitution if you don’t understand the difference.)

    I don’t understand the difference. I have studied the Commerce Clause of the US Constitution. See A Desperate Case under the Commerce Clause: Federal Jurisdiction over All Radio Use.

    Quite literally there is nothing to stop you. Unless, of course, you want to import those devices from whence they were manufactured, or ship them interstate, or even offer them for sale out of state.

    Based on my study of the Commerce Clause and its judicial interpretation with respect to radio devices, I don’t think that any of these actions matter to how such cases are typically decided today. See above link.

  15. It doesn’t matter whether the 802.11 design itself scales (and I’m skeptical of ‘proofs’ that it won’t, for the same reasons I’m skeptical of ‘proofs’ that silicon density is bottoming out). There’s WiMax, and there’s UWB, and there will be lots of open-standard WiFi followons now that DSP and radio transceivers are available on programmable chips.

    You wanted $20 devices. Its going to be … difficult (in the extreme) to bring a DSP or FPGA-based radio to market for an end-user price of $20 anytime in the forseeable future. If you check, I anticipated your arguement, and stated that you could build a $2000 board with sufficent FPGA capacity to implement an 802.11g transceiver. You need to reduce cost by more than two orders of magnitude to get a $20 consumer device.

    Economicly, thats not the way the world works. Look at it this way, in 1985 a PeeCee costs on the order of $2000. A decent PC today (some 20 years later) doesn’t even cost $200, a single order of magnitude. Yes, you get more for the same number of dollars, even if you adjust for inflation, but other factors are at-play.

    If you read what I wrote, most of the problem is the 802.11 MAC, which, for the most part, can be run in software today. Witness the madwifi driver (and its freebsd sister, the net80211 stack.) Given just a wee bit of support (to implement strict controls on the timing of transmits) from existing hardware, it should be possible to implement a ‘mesh MAC’ using today’s hardware, even with the restrictions on the resultant emissiong frequency. But this won’t be 802.11.

    With RF waveform shaping and signal processing reduced to a software problem, coming up with the ‘right’ variation on WiFi for scalable mesh networking becomes a classic example of the kind of optimization problem that is susceptible to a many-eyeballs attack. Which is why I am not worried about the technical side, but rather the politico-regulatory one.

    As I explained, there are no political or regulatory restrictions on the software used. The restrictions are on the sale (and transport) of the technology that encompasses (or carries, or perhaps even “implements”) the software structures.

    I’m not arguing that its right. I believe that “open spectrum” is a good thing (and in fact, it should be a right of each individual to engage in speech and commerce.

    As for your refusal to accept mathematical proof when offered, I was offering to show proofs that *802.11* won’t scale, and, simultaneously, offering to show mathematical proof that scalable mesh networks are possible (just now with 802.11 gear).

    I would have hoped that someone who claims to have been a mathematical prodigy could find something of interest in that. Instead I got something quite reminescent of those in the “community wireless” groups who flee the room (shouting “witchcraft!”) as soon as mathematical nomenclature is introduced.

    In summary, these networks are possible, just not with 802.11 (or WiMax, or at least today’s generation of UWB) hardware.

    Finally, there will always be more capacity in a wire (or fiber) than there will be in a similar RF path. AT&T blew through $1 billion with “Project Angel” learning that lesson. Use wireless for mobility and the world will beat a path to your door. Use wireless for “wired bypass” and you will ultimately fail.

    If you wish, follow (very closely) the difference in messaging of Intel in its 802.11 efforts / early WiMax positioning .vs what they’re saying now, and will say (much louder) soon. Intel used to talk about “wireless broadband”. They don’t anymore. Now they talk about “Mobile Internet”. *Mobile* Internet. There are some very smart people inside Intel, and they scare the fuck out of companies like Qualcomm.

    Douglas, the paper seems to be about commerce *using* radio, not the ability to move atoms around (shipping parts and devices.)

  16. I wrote before about the wireless they’re rolling out in my neck of the woods – not 802.11x. They’re using Motorola’s Canopy system, while not a mesh network, it still allows “last mile” users to cut the cables that bind. My first setup used a passive repeater was getting 1Mbps at a range of 12 miles.

    I paid $300 for the equipment as seed money for the new company. New users now can just lease the equipment and get the equipment and 1Mbps/256Kbs for I think $35 a month. The ISP is using the watertowers in local towns to save on infastructure costs and have started leapfrogging wireless backhauls to extend the network beyond the wired backbones.

  17. I’m not suggesting $2000 FPGA boards as a solution to the mesh networking problem, but as exploratory devices with which to find out what we really want to cast in silicon. And I’m skeptical of alleged mathematical proofs not because I don’t grok math but because I do — the devil is in the assumptions with which you connect the math to the empirical system. Those are invariably much more slippery and subject to error than the proof logic.

    When you say “it should be possible to implement a ‘mesh MAC’ using today’s hardware, even with the restrictions on the resultant emission frequency.” you’ve actually agreed with my original article. Whether the result is technically 802.11b matters not at all and whether calling it ‘WiFi’ is an abuse of the term matters only a very little.

  18. I don’t see any functional difference between what I wrote and what Jim wrote. FCC rules prevent the use of open source drivers for radiating hardware. I’m sure that Jim means well, but based on personal experience with modem manufacturers, I stand by my original words and trust that readers won’t be confused.
    -russ

  19. Forget the communist nirvana. Peer to peer networking just doesn’t work, and the challanges to solving the mesh network as described above are so enormous as to make the whole idea impractical.

    Good luck.

  20. Russ said, “The FCC gets remarkably grumpy about that and won’t give permission for completely open source wireless drivers. Same thing for winmodems. Of course, a libertarian will recognize this as the all too visible dead hand of government.”

    I claim this is an inaccurate statement. The FCC doesn’t grant any kind of “permission” for “completely open source wireless drivers”. You can even certify a system with a completely “open source wireless system”.

    But a system that can be trivially modified by the end user to emit out of band emisisons is not FCC compliant.

    One possible approach would be to digitally sign the code that is responsible for controlling frequency, emissions envelope, transmit power and a couple other knobs that are responsible for maintaining an FCC-compliant system, once certified.

    By doing so, the chipset manufacturer could “open source” (and/or GPL) all of the source code. You would have to run a binary signed by the vendor, of course, and the (wifi) chipset would look for a valid signature and refuse to transmit without one.

    But the driver would, at this point be “open source”. It would even pass the definition for “open source” at OSI.

    That might be something to think about.

  21. Russ, I believe Jim Thompson is correct about the regulatory nuances. I had thought of a similar digital-signing scheme, but didn’t pursue the idea because I thought it would be a political non-starter with the open-source crowd (that is, I thought our collective hatred of anything that looks like DRM would be enough to scuttle it).

    However…Jim is cranky and flamage-prone, but he’s not an idiot. If it’s the only way out of the bind he can see, and it’s the only way out of the bind that I can see, then I guess I have to revisit that idea.

  22. Jim: I for one would be interested to see the proofs you mentioned. Can you provide a link?

  23. You’re skating on the edge of the quack bin, Eric. Any time someone immediately jumps to the conclusion that “mesh networks” or “peer to peer” or any of a number of other magic technologies is going to save they day, they take a giant leap out of the rational balancing necessary in engineering a solution to a problem and accelerate into the stratosphere of hype.

    There are serious problems bootstrapping a mesh network that aren’t going to be solved by technohype; without a sufficient density, a mesh network is brittle and unreliable. Bringing the density up to the point where the whole system is useful would require a large number of individuals to make value judgments of the sort of “if I buy this node, install it, and hook up to the internet, allowing everyone else a free ride, how exactly is my life better?” You’re applying the logical fallacy of unwarranted expectation of reciprocity here–assuming that every individual involved will do behavior X at cost to them with the hope that everyone else will do X in response. Alas, this is the fundemental deceit underlying socialism that you rail against, yet here you expect it will power your mesh networks.

    The reality is that big players with lots of infrastructure and money are already moving quickly to close in on a market that is finally becoming tappable. Verizon is rolling out fiber to the home on a nationwide scale and offering 15mbit/s bandwidth. With deregulation, they’ll be delivering HD video and be competing directly with cable providers. Qualcomm has chips coming out that can do 2mbit/s CDMA over the cell network. The “free wi-fi for everyone” dreamers are about to be deflated by superior technology deployed at scale that is economically sustainable (profitable even).

    Once again, the big, bad corporations, railed against by libertarians and socialists alike, have moved faster, developed better technology, and deployed it at scale, leaving dreaming boobs scratching their heads.

    Mesh network? Going the way of the transputer.

  24. “Today, many people already leave their WiFi access points open for their neighbors to use, even though DSL or cable costs real money, because the incremental cost of being nice is negligible. ”

    I’d do that, but what if my neighbors spread hate speech, child porn or perform DOS attacks on my IP address? The authorities would f**k me. What? MAC addresses? I don’t trust the authorities to be clever and caring enough to look at MAC addresses…

  25. Shenpen, one reason I’ve heard for leaving your WAP open is because that way, under current law, there’s a strong argument that you get common-carrier-like status and are not responsible for third-party content — whereas if you censor or apply security, you are responsible for content.

    Yes, I know this sounds a little wacky. But it matches the best legal advice I could get back when I was running a free community ISP in the early 1990s. Which is how I ended up being an amicus in a Supreme Court case, but that’s another story.

  26. Miles, one proof for scalable mesh networks (not using 802.11) is essentially Tim Shepard’s MIT thesis. http://www.lcs.mit.edu/publications/pubs/pdf/MIT-LCS-TR-670.pdf If you don’t want to read the entire thesis, you
    can read the shorter paper based on it: http://www.acm.org/sigcomm/sigcomm96/papers/shepard.html
    There is other work since, but Tim’s work is a) very complete and b) a very good place to start.

    The proofs that the 802.11 MAC doesn’t scale are many. Its quite easy to see the throughput degredation with increasing load on an ordinary AP, as well as in simulations using (for example) ns or glosim. Gupta, Gray and Kumar published an empirical paper called “An experimental scaling law for ad hoc networks” that showed this in a real world experiment. http://black.csl.uiuc.edu/~prkumar/ps_files/exp.pdf

    I imagine that esr got the advice he references in reference to email and (back then) USENET. When I was at Sun late 80s to early 90s) we looked at the same questions, and got roughly the same answers. (Start filtering / censoring and you’re responsible for what gets through.) Having said this, I doubt that this “legal theory” fits well when the action is denying or allowing access to the system as a whole. As such, I wouldn’t depend on the advice than an “open AP” gives you a “common carrier” like status.

    Consider the situation where you put a *nix box on the Internet that allows any username/password combination to login, and patches suser() to always return true (so everyone is ‘root’). The (fictional) operator of such a system could quite likely be found negligent for the resulting damage. (There was a PDP-11/44 at UNLV that we operated this way back in the mid-80s, but the Internet is a very different place today.)

    I’m not saying that running an “open AP” makes you liable, but I can’t endorse the thinking that running a closed (or secured) AP increases your liability.

    What is true is that you have no legal duty to secure your AP, and that “the authorities” would need to prove (beyond a reasonable doubt) that you were the actor who committed the crime(s). You’re still open to a solid TON of legal harassment at the hand of the state if they proscecute you, and, if you lose you could still go to jail, pay fines, be outcast by society (a child p0rn conviction could result in you having to register as a “sex offender”) and deal with heavy legal bills.

    Given this, its probably best that you enable WPA (WPA2, PSK, I don’t care) on your AP, if only to minimize the possibility for the situation to occur. It will also keep your neighbor from peeking at your data stream(s). In the end though, its your choice, and this is as it should be.

    IANAL (neither is ESR).

    Eric,The ‘signed binary’ is not the only way out of the bind that I ‘see’. I advanced it as “one possible approach”, and yes, it was advanced years ago when the situation with WiFi cards and “open source” drivers first appeared. Its also obvious that there are a large set of people who are quite willing to break the rules at their whim. Witness the large number of people who want to “increase power” on their WRT54g-like boxes, even though this a) clearly makes the box non-compliant and b) produces no useful result, since the PA on the card is then pushed way past its IP3, and the resulting non-linearity makes the signal nearly impossible to demodulate.

    I’m ‘cranky’ because many people publish bullshit as though they were authorities without taking the time to research and think about the question(s).

  27. > I’m not suggesting $2000 FPGA boards as a solution to the mesh networking problem, but as exploratory devices with > which to find out what we really want to cast in silicon.

    You suggested that a scalable mesh network could be build with “flocks of cheap WiFi nodes that automatically discover neighboring nodes and act as routers”, and then suggested that the price of these could be $20 each. I demured with explaination.

    You stated, “there will be lots of open-standard WiFi followons now that DSP and radio transceivers are available on programmable chips.” I merely corrected that a design using these DSPs and FPGAs wold be two orders of magnitude more expensive than your example of a $20 node.

    I will add that if you go this route, you’re probably going to want to implement the baseband (receiver) in fixed point, and the commodity (cheap) DSPs tend to be floating point. Some of the more popular floating-point applications (and therefore the makret for floating point DSPs) are found in physics, chemistry, meteorology, fluid dynamics, image recognition, earthquake modeling, number theory, crash simulation, weather modeling, and 3-D graphics. If you are designing an image processor, a radar processor, anything to do with astronomy, or a mathematics matrix inverter, the choice is clearly a floating-point solution.

    Obtaining the required operation speed / cost ratio for radio (or audio) signal processing typically requires moving to fixed point (and, frankly any silicon implementation will be fixed point anyway). Perhaps there is a commodity audio DSP that can be retargeted toward radio applications. If not, then its unlikely that you’ll find “cheap” DSPs to be of much use.

    > And I’m skeptical of alleged mathematical proofs not because I don’t grok math but because I do — the devil is in the
    > assumptions with which you connect the math to the empirical system. Those are invariably much more slippery and
    > subject to error than the proof logic.

    Understood and agreed, but many in the “community wireless” world want to *only* talk about “real world results”, but these are difficult to understand (and therefore improve) without a basis in theory. Without that basis, any valid assumption is, at best, a happily correct SWAG. Its also functionally true that if it doesn’t work in theory, it quite likely won’t work in practice. This presumes a valid theory, of course.

    > When you say “it should be possible to implement a ‘mesh MAC’ using today’s hardware, even with the restrictions on > the resultant emission frequency.” you’ve actually agreed with my original article.

    Not quite. While I allow that a suitable “mesh MAC” could be built using today’s commodity hardware, I have yet to address the PHY layer. OFDM is likely the *wrong* modulation scheme for a scalable mesh, and this rules out using commoity WiFi and WiMax chipsets in a scalable mesh design. UWB is closer to what is needed, though it has problems as currently designed. Please read Shepard’s thesis for a deeper dive on this subject if you like. This is not the right forum for such diversions. You may also wish to consider the advice of my good friend Siavash, “You can’t solve PHY layer problems at the MAC layer.”

    > Whether the result is technically 802.11b matters not at all and whether calling it ‘WiFi’ is an abuse of the term
    > matters only a very little.

    I don’t follow your line of reasoning. A scalable mesh network would use neither the 802.11 MAC or any of the 802.11 PHYs. How can it then be accurately called “WiFi”?

    Yes, Eric, we could get incrementally closer to the goal by engineering a ‘mesh-friendly’ MAC on top of Atheros or Ralink cards, using OLSR for the mesh routing protocol, and writing the software that performs all of the self-provisioning and management tasks. Once we get this far, we will still have a system that scales in a sub-linear fashion, but it won’t scale as poorly as the systems sold by firetide, tropos, stryx, and it will be a big improvement over the current efforts in the “community wireless” groups. Going the rest of the way will likely require a $20m investment. In my view a much more worthy cause than the same amount invested in, say, FON. (A Cometa clone, to be sure.)

    In the end, you really want to use radio when there is either a strict broadcast (one to many) application, or the application has a ‘mobility’ requirement. Without these, wires (including fiber) are almost always the solution of choice for anyone who has studied the problem to some depth.

    Fortunately, we don’t have to bow before the ILECs and MSOs for those wires. As you’ve discussed, there is plenty of fiber avaiable beyond the “first mile”. As I (and others) have shown, its quite possible to build these “first mile” networks out of existing commodity equipment and community labor.

    I, for one, would rather have a 100Mbps full-duplex link out of my home than a WiMax or WiFi anything. There is no reason we can’t “fill in” other areas (parks, malls, back yards, living rooms, etc) with WiFi, of course.

  28. Why not reverse engineer the chipset commands? Bear with me a bit. Buy a bunch of PCI cards, stick them in PCs, put appropriate detectors around then, stick the whole setup into a shielded container that won’t leak RF to make the entire assemblage FCC compliant and then brute force run every signal combination available on that card. Once you have gone through it all, you can take the resulting signal characteristics that you’ve measured and create a table of effects that will allow you to write an OSS driver without the involvement of the manufacturer. Obviously, you have to break up the task and create multiple reverse engineering boxes to get the job done (how many is probably a significantly large number and serious money will have to be applied).

    This approach has the benefit of making the hardware manufacturers’ cooperation only an aid in providing good will for them and lowering the cost of driver writing. The FCC can’t really do anything to the manufacturer because they’re not doing anything. Who are they going to go after, a testing laboratory that doesn’t do any actual coding but just exhaustively tests and says what a wireless card actually does?

    The only question is whether the testing equipment is beyond the financial resources of the OSS community.

  29. >”if I buy this node, install it, and hook up to the internet, allowing everyone else a free ride, how exactly is my life better?”

    In the obvious way. I get Internet access without having to pay anything more for it than the fixed cost of the node. You might as well ask “Why should I run a BitTorrent client and let others free-ride on my bandwidth and drive space?” The analogy is exact: in both cases, joining the network trades a cheap, effectively fixed-cost resource for an otherwise expensive and variable-cost one. Result: everybody wins. This can happen when, as with BitTorrent or a mesh network, the network has significant positive externalities.

    I agree that UWB is a better long-term bet than close relatives of 802.11b, and I agree that in an ideal world I’d like to have a wire-line connection rather than a wireless one. However, the point of David’s original question was “what can we do to break the grip of the telco monopolists?”, and it seems to me that mesh networks are a better tool for a disruptive attack on them than any kind of bottom-up wireline networks — the increment of investment required to join a mesh will be smaller.

    Jim Thompson’s fenceline networks are, it seems to me, a promising technology for after the mesh revolution smashes the telcos — a bottom-up way of aggregating demand that both increases reliability and enriches the mesh. But there are significant obstacles: ever try to get a homeowner’s association to approve a fence-mounted cable?

  30. In the long run everything is $20 wholesale (to a first approximation) so hardware costs are nothing to worry about. When a simple RF unit is cheap enough to put into every street light you get city wide MESH connectivity almost overnight.

    The nice thing is the street lights follow cars and people giving continious coverage.

  31. > In the obvious way. I get Internet access without having to pay anything more for it than the fixed cost of the
    > node. You might as well ask “Why should I run a BitTorrent client and let others free-ride on my bandwidth
    > and drive space?” The analogy is exact: in both cases, joining the network trades a cheap, effectively
    > fixed-cost resource for an otherwise expensive and variable-cost one. Result: everybody wins. This can
    > happen when, as with BitTorrent or a mesh network, the network has significant positive externalities.

    Who is buying the Internet connection?

    The telcos are already all but dead. All we’re seeing with the “Google must pay to play (traverse our pipes to get to the customer)” crapfest is the gasps and death throes of a set of dying dinosaurs, ill equiped to deal with the changing world.

    AT&T spent *One Billion Dollars” on “Project Angel” to scare the ILECS into gaining access to their fiber and copper plants. The outcome: even in licensed spectrum you can’t replace wires with radios and end up with an economic system to which you can attach “SLAs”, and thus provide a *service*.

    The scare tactic worked, and its a good thing (for AT&T), because the wireless stuff was a bust (and with multiple antenna arrays and space-time coding, it was far more sophisticated than WiFi.)

    In order to justify building out a wireless infrastructure, the devices that attach must have a M-O-B-I-L-I-T-Y requirement.

    Here is a none-too-subtle hint: Watch what Intel is doing with WiMax now that they have a mobile profile in WiMax. All that “WISP” cr*p will be pushed to the side. Watch the “ExpressCard” and PCIe cards start to show up about 12-18 months from now.

    (Qualcomm is scared sh*tless, given what I’ve seen of their behavior at the IEEE meetings.)

  32. I should be a little more clear about my rational for why I believe this whole idea won’t work.

    We could talk about the economic issues, such as that the last mile carriers will never allow their profits to be canibalized for free shared access.

    Or, we could talk about the gereal idea of any-to-any connectivity, and how that model almost never works. Though mostly I’m refering to applications. Almost all applications revert to client server, including ethernet, chat, secruty, etc., at least on the control plane.

    We can also talk about how 802.11 is wholy unsuited to outdoor, and it has nothing to do with the encoding mechanisms, but to do with the idea of taking mulit-access systems outside. The problem is the cost of any to any control is too high given the latencies involved. There is a rule/principle here. Control is expensive. When the control channel becomes long, as in outdoors, or in large systems such as the internet, the system will tend towards point to master slave solutions (client server) to minimize the costs.

    Thats why systems like google make so much sense: they organize information around a single point. That’s why ebay makes sense.

    That’s why communist nirvana of cooperative nodes interconnected creating a mesh blanket do not.

  33. Eric– Of course Jim is not correct about “the regulatory nuances”. It is simply a fact that radiating in any frequency other than those alloted by the FCC will make the FCC grumpy. If you create a system where that can be done with any reasonable amount of effort, that will make the FCC grumpy. People who make mass market hardware that connects to public networks (e.g. winmodem or frequency-agile wifi chipsets) have zero incentive to make the FCC grumpy. Thus, they will not cooperate with an open source developer making an open source driver pretty much an impossibility.

    Now, if somebody could figure out how to make an open source driver that wasn’t open source, that could change the frequency and amplitude of a radiated signal without changing the frequency and amplitude, then they’d be able to make an open source driver. I’m not holding my breath.

  34. Russ,

    Spraying RF over “licensed bands” (when you’re not the licensee) doesn’t just “make the FCC grumpy”, its *illegal*. Truely massive fines can result.

    The OpenBSD script kiddies claim to have “open sourced” the HAL for the Atheros chipset(s). They haven’t, they stole code. (I won’t further discuss the point.) Still, if you don’t mind contributing to the theft, you’re free to go grab that code and run it, or even “port” it to linux.

    Your final paragraph is masive contradiction of itself. Are you feeling OK?

  35. There is another way to handle the Telcos which involves more regulation. It’s currently being practiced in the UK where we are in the process of dismantling our equivalent of AT&T, BT. You make it a condition of the monopoly over the last mile that the owner has to a) wholesale internet bandwidth to 3rd party ISPs and b) Allow ISPs (at a price) to install ADSL hardware in the branch exchanges, What we should do and don’t is to apply exactly the same rules to the Cable companies but we gave them a monopoly in order to promote the development of cable although that was now a long time ago.

    The net result is actually working even though there’s a constant running battle between BT, the cable companies, the 3rd party ISPs and the government regulator. We now have very wide coverage of ADSL over the phone lines, We have cable internet available over all the major urban areas, we’ve got a healthy market in alternate ISPs and we’ve got some ISPs pushing the boundaries with high speeds where they’ve made the investment to install their own kit in the exchanges.

    As for WiFi Mesh, we’ve got some people experimenting with this but it’s really small scale and doesn’t look to me like it can work over 802.11 What I would like to see is WiFi mesh used to aggregate broadband access within small areas. I imagine an urban street with 3 internet conections and 5 APs all linked together so that anyone in the street could get wifi speeds up and down the street and burst internet speeds of 3* the basic link speed. This would enable truly local community while offering ubiquitous access to guests.

  36. >Who is buying the Internet connection?

    I’m not sure I understand the question. In the hypothetical future when I power up a mesh node, I’m adding a path to the network. Some of what moves over that path will be traffic that originates from me or is addressed to me. The rest of it will be traffic for third parties that gets relayed through my node because a neighboring router thinks I’m on the current least-cost path to somewhere interesting. Congested nodes signal their congested status and cause their neighbors’ cost models for path computation to change. If the nodes self-organize into a self-scaling network (cliques of cliques of cliques… with roughly the same fanout at every level of the hierarchy) it’s possible to prove that you don’t have to propagate costs very far to get optimal routing.

    I paid for my connection when I bought a node. The implied contract is that I get a free ride on other peoples’ bandwidth because they get a free ride on mine. For this reciprocity to be sustainable, mesh nodes have to be so cheap that adding a new one costs less than the administrative overhead of bringing up a pay-for-play system on an existing one. Fortunately this should be easy to arrange.

  37. ESR: How do your bits get to NYC, LA, London, etc.?

    Julian: If you follow the “fenceline networking” link you’ll see that I propose a system that can leverage your neighbor’s IP link (say, an ADSL line or Cable Modem), as well as yours to increase the thoughput that any one node can see.

    This requires a hgh-speed, low-latency connection between the cable modems, and a (very fancy) NAT.

    It would also give a reason for people to build out the fenceline network. Participate and you get faster speeds. Of course, once the ‘fenceline’ network is big enough, it gets easy to tie-in to existing metro fiber, and at that point, the bits get *real cheap*.

    We probably want IPV6 for this type of network, if only for its security and auto-configuration tech. Your home router could trivially turn this back into IPV4 if required.

  38. >How do your bits get to NYC, LA, London, etc.?

    From me to NYC or LA is easy; I’m near Philadelphia and the landmass between me and them has lots of room for mesh nodes and lots of dark fiber in it. London is a problem, though. More generally, getting across places people don’t live is a problem. We’d still need a longhaul network for that. Hm…this means we need IPV6, because this means traffic will need to be flow-tagged with credentials that allow it to traverse (say) the NYC-to-London link. Once we have that, the economics is fairly straightforward; the equivalent of an ISP will be a broker for bandwidth on restricted links. Most links won’t restrict, because they have too many alternatives to make the clearing price they can charge more than the transaction cost of metering traffic.

  39. OK, so in a fully built-out network you can take a finite, but large number of hops to get from Malvern to LA.

    Getting to fiber (sooner) will make for far less latency and a far lower packet loss rate. (Have you considered packet loss for your very large (nation-wide) mesh? I’ll assume that you understand how badly TCP performs under packet loss rates as low as those found on a single 802.11 link (FER = 0.08).

    And of course, there aren’t many alternatives for crossing the oceans (undersea fiber or sat links. Both of these cost real money.)

    To my knowledge, IPV6 has “flow labels”, but these are 20-bit nonces, and its going to be difficult to fit your credentials into that space. RFC3697 says, “IPv6 nodes MUST NOT assume any mathematical or other properties of the Flow Label values assigned by source nodes.”

    Perhaps you intend to (instead) insert a new V6 header in the packet and use that to carry the credential information, as well as a set of key-value pairs (or tuples) that contain the billing parameters that the end-user is willing to accept?

    Once you’ve tagged all packets with “credentials”, have you made it extremely easy to wiretap the mesh, or are you depending on the path diversity to complicate this for any “interested party”? Couldn’t a well-funded adversary scatter a large number of nodes (after all, they’re cheap) and have a very good chance of snarfing packets of interest? (Yes, IPV6 has IPSEC built-in, but the credentials have to be readable in the clear.)

  40. >OK, so in a fully built-out network you can take a finite, but large number of hops to get from Malvern to LA.

    Right. In practice, I don’t think that would ever happen. There’s lots of dark fiber in the ground and lots of users willing to light it up to buy maximum-latency guarantees. Because any individual dark fiber has so damn much bandwidth, there’d be no economic point in keeping free riders — out of these `sponsored links’; administering the controls would eat more than the putative gain from having controls. (This, of course, is why the existing net backbone has no cost accounting other than peering fees.)

    I haven’t thought about packet loss a lot, no. Comparing the maximum distance from a DSL provisioning point to end-users (2700 feet, isn’t it?), I’d say we’re talking, oh, maybe six additional hops to replace the average “last mile”. That would be a significant latency hit, but probably not a serious packet sink.

    You’re right, 20-bit flow labels won’t do it. I had forgotten they were so short. In fact, those are too short for anything serious. What were they thinking?

    Securing the kind of credentials system I’ve been describing is a well-studied problem in crypto protocols. It’s not trivial but it can be done.

  41. There is another choice. Here in Utah a bunch of cities are running fiber directly to the houses. Current pricing is $44/month up and down for 15mbps (http://www.utopianet.org/corporate.htm). It’s $109 / month for business with 30mbps up and down. I realize it’s not a solution for everyone, and you need some lawyers for when Qwest goes after you, but this is an interesting experiment.

  42. How ’bout making frequency throughputs hard-coded on hardware logic and make open-source software interface with them for protocol control etc.? Or something… (sorry I’m neither an electrical engineer nor a coder)

    What I’m trying to ask more or less is, is there some way to make the wireless hardware be hard-wired not to exceed FCC specs but still be open enough to create open-source software to interface with said FCC-compliant hardware?

  43. Jim: of course my final paragraph was a massive contradiction of itself. I’m saying that a legal open source driver for frequency-agile hardware is a contradiction in terms. Which is only what I’ve ever said, and it’s what you said, so I’m still puzzled why you ever disagreed with me, except possibly that you enjoy disagreeing with people. Some day it will be an Olympic sport. I’m sure you’ll qualify for the US team.

  44. Jim says “In the end, you really want to use radio when there is either a strict broadcast (one to many) application, or the application has a ‘mobility’ requirement. Without these, wires (including fiber) are almost always the solution of choice for anyone who has studied the problem to some depth.”

    Phil Karn KA9Q, for whom I have a lot of respect, says exactly the same thing.

  45. Russ,

    Interesting that you still don’t ‘get it’. You say the driver is “illegal” (and earlier that the FCC would “get grouchy” about an open source driver), but that isn’t the issue. The *driver* isn’t the problem. The FCC gets to control “radiators” (even if the radiation is a side-effect of operation).

    The software doesn’t emit, the *radio* does. You may take the position that the software is necessary for the operation of the device (its not, though *some* software is requisite, of course). I’ll simply counter that there are other areas where the FCC would like to see itself as the final arbiter of the 1st amendment, that software is speech and free speech is best.

    Placing the FCC in control of software (as you appear wont to do) is an extremely dangerous precedent.

    Its also intersting how you head straight for the insult layer when you are shown to be incorrect.

    I’m glad that Phil Karn exposes the same idea. Very few people with *real* experience with RF see it as somehow containing “magic properties”. I also have a lot of respect for Mr. Karn.

    Lemi4/fERDI: Typically this is done via embedded firmware (Intel’s Centrino, Broadcom’s 47xx chips, and all of the “Digital Ocean” designs (Prism – Prism3, Lucent/Agere/Orinoco, Symbol, Aironet, etc. all used embedded firmware to control the emissions envelope of the card.). There are cards that don’t hold this firmware (such as the Atheros and Ralink designs), where the software is 100% in control of the emissions envelope. The Atheros design, in particular, has some very nice VCOs on-board that allow it to tune *well* into licensed bands without some restrictions in-place.

    I’ve advanced that the chunk of code that controls the emissions envelope on such a design could be released under a digital signature scheme such that the vendor (or one of their licensed ‘partners’) could release code that is certified to comply, even with 100% source code availability. This code (lets call it a HAL) could be put into a test harness and tested for compliance. If it passes, the vendor (or partner) would be able to sign the module with a key that the hardware would require to be present (and the result of the module to check-out) prior to any transmission from the card.

    Presto: “100% Open Source”, yet the card still couldn’t be used in ways that would make it fall out of compliance. (Its likely not GPLv3 compliant, and perhaps Russ (Mr. “OSI”, along with ESR) should take a look at what that means for the “Open Source definition”.

    Bruce: Yes, I know about Utopia. I’ve said elsewhere that the idea for fenceline networking started with the project that eventually became Utah’s “Project Utopia”. (Down in Spanish Fork, IIRC.)

    Also, if the prices for 60GHz come down to around $200/node (a 50:1 reduction from where they are now), you could potentially use radio as a short-haul fiber replacement.

    Jim
    (kd5fga)

  46. Imagine for a minute a pole can only carry 50 cables. So you handwave a a fancy pants wifi tri-band overhead-cam fuel injected “open source” wifi system that only hippies and drug addicts would use.

    While the rest of the world will just plug the #@$% other end of the same “last mile” cable we’ve always had into equipment that doesn’t belong to that big telco.

    Hey Presto! LLU without needing a big pole.

  47. I’m surprised that no one has commented on what the Bells will have to do to “deliver” traffic priorities.

    While the bells control the last mile, most traffic spends most of its time on another network. While they could arrange for special treatment on other networks for traffic destined for some of their customers, or for traffic from certain sources to their customers, or for traffic from certain sources for some of their customers, it’s unlikely that they’ll bother.

    Instead, the easiest way for them to distinguish traffic is to simply drop packets on their own network that aren’t specially favored.

  48. Oh and I’d like to reply to Jim Thompson’s (way) earlier comment by saying that FON and Cometa are totally different business-wise. Commeta Networks [http://cometanetworks.com/] are all about vertical deployment of Wireless networks on public places like airports, office buildings, malls, etc. while FON [http://en.fon.com] tries to jump-start a grass-roots movement for people to buy wireless routers to create as wide a global mesh network as possible, with monetary incentives for the individuals (when using the Bill and Alien model).

    You can either read Doc Searl’s explanation in Linux Journal (which I linked previously), or you can visit these two web sites representing each organisation.

  49. I know who Doc Searls is (see, for example the most recent ‘Suit Watch’ around this date), and I suggest to you that Glenn Fleischman has far superior depth on the subject of 802.11.

    Yes, FON is attempting to leverage other people’s good will, but they are far from the first company to attempt to monetize other people’s APs.

    They are, however a well-funded .com who will HACF on re-entry and splash lifeless into the sea.

  50. The Nation has it all wrong. Consumer reaction to such tiered pricing would be largely negative, as it is clearly a step backwards and provides little or no benefit for most telco customers. The only way the telcos would be able to implement such a system is by forming a cartel, to which all currently existing telcos belong, wherein all members implement the same tiered pricing scheme. This might happen, but, like any other cartel, it would be inherently unstable. Even if the creation of new non-member telcos can be suppressed, and it turns out that all the potential alternative technologies aren’t viable, the cartel will still eventually dissolve. There’d be a great deal of profit in offering non-tiered pricing, in a market full of tiered pricing, because consumers prefer the former system over the latter, and sooner or later one or more cartel-member telcos would take advantage of that.

  51. Rich, one of the requirements for writing for “The Nation” is that you’re not allowed to understand market economics — you’re required to believe “the market” is a conspiracy of top-hatted Daddy Warbucks clones who eat roast suckling proletarians for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

  52. A libertarian/anarchist solution to this problem may work technically, but it won’t work politically in my opinion (although I am fully prepared to be proved wrong). Because people who adhere to libertarianism/anarchism rarely organize collectively to effectively oppose the lobbying forces of the telecoms, they will probably loose out. As a leftist (who happens to read the Nation), I can’t claim that the big-government progressives are doing a very good job of mobilizing people here in the US, but in other countries, people have effectively joined together to oppose the telecom special interests. They have demanded government regulation which is why broadband is so much cheaper and better in other places in the world.

    In a few cases, I think libertarianism and anarchism work, but I think Noam Chomsky (who is an anarchist) is correct in asserting that anarchism isn’t effective in the face of organized opposition from powerful corporations, because you are leaving a power vaccum for them to exploit. You need an effect counter-balance. Theoretically you could organize people to work collectively to oppose to telecoms, then strive for the anarchist solution to replace the telecom monopoly, but I see imperfect government regulation as a much more effective way of stopping the telecoms.

    I don’t dogmatically believe in either big-government progressivism or anarchism (although I do have a problem with libertarian and Smithian attitudes which say what is best for me is always best for society). I think we have to examine each case pragmatically with a utilitarian framework. Look emperically at real world examples and see what has brought broadband to the largest number of people with the least exclusion of the poor and marginalized. I think on these grounds, broadband access has been acheived most effectively in countries which have embraced government regulation of telecoms.

    I’m not claiming that government regulation doesn’t create lots of inefficiencies and suboptimal solutions–it does, but it has proven more effective than other alternatives in this matter. Government regulation is not an elegant solution to the problem since you have to periodically rally forces to change the regulations everytime the technology changes. I understand why many hackers(who define freedom in individualistic terms as an absence of outside control) would hate government regulation. A mathmatical mind rebels against such an imperfect solution, but this is a question to be solved with utilitarian principals.

    As a side point, we need to stop defining freedom on purely individualistic terms as an “absence” of outside control. Instead, define freedom as the freedom to create a “presence” of collective controls which we have collectively defined. One form of freedom is the right to join collectively and create identities rooted in social groupings. Sometimes this means anarchist social groupings, but sometimes this means working collectively to enact government regulation. Of course my observations about freedom probably seem strange to the people on this forum, but realize that freedom is a culturally defined concept and Americans have a very peculiar notion of what is freedom.

    –Amos Batto

  53. Let me give you an example of a utilitarian and emperical solution to wireless communications. Define 2/3rds of the useful spectrum as being regulated and 1/3 of the useful spectrum as being totally unregulated to see how well each functions and which provides people with better service. Wait 5 years and examine how well each part of the spectrum functions. Examine how well the urban poor and rural residents are being served. If the unregulated spectrum is doing a better job then increase its share and decrease the regulated spectrum’s share. Now some regulation of the unregulated spectrum is going to be needed to make sure that everyone shares nicely. For instance, you have to prevent the telecoms from deciding to jam all signals in the unregulated space to prevent competition to their monopoly. You might also have to rule how much of the unregulated spectrum can be used by any one entity, so one group doesn’t hog it all, or you might have to establish some regulation to make sure that different technologies can use the same spectrum space concurrently.

    Meanwhile, In the regulated space, establish common carrier rules and network neutrality to prevent content discrimination.

    OK, one more thought about libertarianism:
    Libertarian sentiment tends to increase when democracy doesn’t function very well and people loose faith in collective solutions and effective government. Despite the rhetoric of many Americans, the US is not a very democratic country. Many political scientists question whether the US’s presidential system and win take all system is really very democratic. Although US democracy has proven stable over time, it also alienates large sections of the population who feel they have no representation in the government. The US political system also stifles diversity of opinion. The majority of the poor have been effectively disenfranchised under the US political system, and don’t feel it is worth their time to vote. Meanwhile wealthy sectors and corporations have overwhelming control over the political process and the media. There is a reason why the US has the highest income inequality (Gini index) of any developed nation and the worst public health statistics of any developed nation, but the highest medical costs as a percentage of GDP. The US has very little diversity of viewpoint in its major media and little criticism of

  54. >Instead, define freedom as the freedom to create a “presence” of collective controls which we have collectively defined.

    Doesn’t have the zip of “War is peace”. “Freedom is slavery.” or “Arbeit Macht Frei”.

    Get stuffed. You’re not even a catchy apologist for totalitarianism.

  55. > Get stuffed. You’re not even a catchy apologist for totalitarianism.

    I’m not advocating totalitarianism. I study indigenous groups in the Andes, and they have a very collective definition of freedom, which is utterly alien to the individualistic definition of freedom which you are using. When Aymara or Mapuche talk about freedom, they are talking about the freedom to form collective bodieswhich act in the interests of the community. This freedom means the ability to oppose the state and the ability to oppose globalization. Yes, there are conflicts between collective and individual freedom, but I think we have gone too far in defining all freedom as individual. Many times the freedom of the individual is expanded by the freedom of the collective.

    It is a restriction of my individual freedom to live in a society like the US where so many people don’t have quality health care, because it increases my worries about me getting a communicable disease or being unable to pay for my health care because so many of the uninsured people have to rely on public health facilities which I then subsidize. I think broadband internet is a similar situation. It expands my individual freedom to live in a society where everyone has access to broadband. I’ve already explained why I think this is more likely to happen with government regulation than with no regulation.

    Basically I think it is all about the balance between individual and collective rights which gives us the best freedom. Totalitarianism is going to the extreme of only individual rights or only collective rights. For instance, the total freedom of the individual to do anything often results in one person having the freedom to grab all the wealth and oppress his neighbors. This becomes a very totalitarian situation in my opinion because the neighbors don’t really have any freedom, except to do what the one powerful individual wants. But going to the other extreme of only collective rights, stops the individual from having an personal freedom to act differently from the collective. So no, I’m not advocating totalitarianism which comes from extreme individual or collective rights.

    Finding the balance between individual and collective is messy, but I think it is best done through the negotiation of democracy. Likewise, In some cases, less government regulation is good, but in others it is not. In the case of natural monopolies, regulation is good. When the technology changes so that there is no longer a natural monopoly, libertarianism is generally better. To best negotiate when to regulate and when not to regulate and to decide between individual and collective rights, we need effective democracy that makes these decisions. When democracy doesn’t function very well or has been subverted as I believe it has in the US, then we need to strive to rebuild democracy, not turn to absolute libertarianism/anarchism or absolute collective totalitarianism to solve the problem.

  56. Anybody who can propose “collective control” and “freedom” as equivalents after viewing the consequences of “collective control” for freedom over the last century is insane. That insanity doesn’t get any less insane by being dressed up in fashionable Third-Worldism.

    Anyone can take a fling at redefining the word “freedom”. I could redefine “freedom” as meaning “dancing pink elephants”. If I did that, I’d be insane too, though less dangerously so than you. Because whether you intend to be an apologist for totalitarianism or not, that is exactly what you are.

  57. > Because whether you intend to be an apologist for totalitarianism or not, that is exactly what you are.

    Actually, I think I am closer to Scandinavian social democracy than totalitarianism. Of course some libertarians think that the Swedes and Danes live under totalitarian governments because it takes 60% of their earnings in taxes. But I would argue that they find a good balance between the needs of the society and the individual, because they have vibrant democracies that effectively mediate these issues. If either the individual or collective demands get too great, then they vote for a different party that will find a new balance. The central question is how free is the individual to question and challenge publically the demands of the collective. We can prevent collective totalitarianism from ever arising with strong guarantees of certain individual rights. Free speech, free press, free association, and an independent judiciary are essential to ensuring that people have the ability challange the system when it tips toward totalitarianism and restricts their freedom too much.

    I think it is much more likely that America will become a social democracy rather than a totalitarian state if we embraced more regulation of corporations and placed greater emphasis on collective needs. It is simplistic to think that 20th century totalitarianism arose because collective rights were placed individual rights. Totalitarianism in Germany, Italy, China, USSR, and Cambodia arose out of a particular set of circumstances which are very different from the ones we face today in the US. Also, it is important to keep in mind that the US caused a lot of right-wing dictatorships in the 3rd World during the 20th century which broached on totalitarism. A university student in Guatamala City during the early 1980s or a Mayan peasant in the Ixil triangle would have considered his government which massacred 200,000 to be very totalitarian. Likewise, Chileans, Argentinians, Brazilians, Bolivians, and Uruguayans in 1975 would have found their governments very totalitarian. If you criticized the government, you were “dissappeared”. Several of my friends in my PhD program had parents who fled these governments, so I’m not talking abstractly here. These Latin American dictatorships and their armies relied on the support of the US government. We had a nice democracy at home, but were funding dictorships abroad. What caused the rise of this sort of totalitarianism? Business and anti-communist ideologs from the US allied with wealthy elite in Latin America who wanted to prevent poor majorities from acheiving collective rights. When people decided to elect democracies that would redistribute wealth more fairly, the US helped right-wing elites to implement totalitarian dictatorship to prevent it. My point in going into all this is that totalitarianism often arises in cases of extreme social injustice and the absence of collective rights. The best way to correct extreme social injustice is through the mediation of democracy with strong guarantees for certain (but not all) individual liberties. Almost all of the Latin American dictatorships could have been prevented if the democratic will of the people demanding more collective rights had been respected. Of course, this would mean that the individual rights of some of the elite to own large amounts of land and wealth would have been reduced.

  58. ESR appears to not understand that co-operation is better than individual action. Which is sorta like “free software” > “open source”, (which he also doesn’t understand.)

    People who bitch about the Atheros HAL are almost all secretly wishing they could spray their packets in whatever spectrum they choose, FCC be damned.

    Yes, Amos (and ESR), we could have *more* by co-operating. And yes, this is a very foreign concept to the Western “where’s mine?!?” mind.

  59. >ESR appears to not understand that co-operation is better than individual action.

    Cooperation is better than individual action when (and only when) the cooperation is voluntary.

  60. Swedish economic analysts Fredrik Bergström & Robert Gidehag have found: 1) 40% of Swedish households are now below the U.S. poverty line in equivalent purchasing power, and 2) the entire country of Sweden has a lower GDP than the state of Alabama, which ranks 45th in the U.S. Furthermore the native Swedish population is not reproducing at replacement rates and is well down the road to demographic suicide.

    Oh, that wonderful Swedish social democracy. Doesn’t it just kill you?

  61. Fredrik Bergström & Robert Gidehag subsequenty point out that Switzerland is doing better than the other EU countries, some of which aren’t socialist democracies. Moreover, on a per-capita basis, Ireland is about equal with the US. This is interesting because a bit more than 10 years ago, Ireland was one of the poorest EU countries.

    Comparing the US50 to the individual EU states, Ireland lands between New Mexico and Florida. (And, I must point out, Pennsylvania is below the mean, while every place I’ve lived; Nevada, Texas, Washington and Hawaii are above it.) According to the report, the per-capita GDP in Louisiana is higher than Pennsylvania.

    The report also indicates that 29% of Sweden’s population own a PC, while 40% of the US population does. Sweden is far higher in PC ownership than most of the rest of the EU countries. (Denmark is at 30%.) Every country in the EU out ranks the US in cell phone ownership, however. In fact, US cell phone ownership is *half* that of the lowest EU country (Belgium).

    Sweden has more phones per capita than the US, too.

    In any case, Sweden is technically a constitutional monarchy, not a socialist democracy. Ireland is a parliamentary democracy, Switzerland’s form of government is similar in structure to a federal republic. The US is a federal republic.

    Here is a link to the data I used. (I hope esr will furnish same.)
    http://www.timbro.com/euvsusa/pdf/EU_vs_USA_English.pdf

  62. Jim Thompson finds the same on-line resource on Sweden’s comparative performance that I did, but why he chose to clutter it up his summary with irrelevancies about Ireland and Switzerland and Pennsylvania is unclear.

    The Swedes themselves agree with Amos “freedom is collective control” Batto that they live in a ‘social democracy’. Some of them have recently gotten around to noticing that their country is sliding into genteel poverty, inceasingly terrorized by a Muslim minority, and no longer leads the world in anything but the export of smug rhetoric. As ye sow…

    Here’s a safe prediction: the shining lights of ‘democratic socialism’ will continue to decline in both population and wealth, the cowboy-capitalist U.S. will continue to increase in both, and memebots like Mr. Batto will continue to spew vast amounts of verbiage in a futile attempt to hide their fundamental disconnection from reality.

  63. I apologize for being “unclear” and for having cluttered.

    I have seveal points:

    1) Sweden is not a socialist democracy, its a constitutional monarchy. (As are all of the countries which used to comprise the United Kingdom.) Iraq, too is a constitutional monarchy.

    2) The population in Ireland also has strong socialist tendancies, yet Irelands per-capita GDP is actually higher than most US states, including the one in where ESR resides.

    3) Per-capita, Swedes have nearly as many computers and more phones than the US.

    4) All of Europe have *far* more cell phones (per capita) than the US.

    Points 3 and 4 could show that Sweden and the rest of the EU have at least as much technical prowess and opportunity as the US.

    5) Switzerland nearly equals the US in the metrics that were used. The authors interpret that this is due to the high inflow of Western cash to the Swiss economy. I choose to believe that it is due to the presence of a fully-automatic military rifle in every Swiss home. :-)

    The report does show (it nearly *complains*) that Sweden’s society is not as focused on consumption. The report attempts to extrapolate that this is due to Sweden’s lower household wages and higher taxes.

    I find it just as possible that Swedes find that they don’t need as much crap in their lives and in their houses. (Would you rather decorate your home with furniture from IKEA or Wal*Mart?)

    Robert Huggins Associates, a think-tank based in Cardiff, Wales, said Stockholm had the eighth most competitive knowledge economy in the world and was the leading location for IT knowledge outside the US. According to the report, San Jose / Silicon Valley has the world’s most competitive knowledge economy. US locations filled the top seven places, with Boston and San Francisco joining San Jose in the top three. No other EU country placed above #27.

    KPMG just released a report showing that Sweden, Denmark and Germany are the only developed countries not showing serious under-investment in R&D. Note that the US didn’t make the list.

    In summary, I wouldn’t attempt to draw too many conclusions from the B & G report.

  64. > I’m not claiming that government regulation doesn’t create lots of inefficiencies and suboptimal solutions–it does, but it has proven more effective than other alternatives in this matter.

    “proven”? How about a cite?

    > I find it just as possible that Swedes find that they don’t need as much crap in their lives and in their houses. (Would you rather decorate your home with furniture from IKEA or Wal*Mart?)

    For some reason, I prefer to have a choice; I’ll mix and match. The anti-walmart folks think that I shouldn’t. The anti-walmart folks think that do-without is superior to do-for-cheap. They’re wrong.

    When someone talks about need, they’re planning to take.

  65. Choice (between Wal*Mart and IKEA) was implicit in my query, Andy. I’m not anti-Wal*Mart (my kid loves to buy his Yugi-Oh cards there.) I do endorse the thought that do-without *IS* superior to deal-with-crap/throw-it-away/buy-more-crap though.

    That said, the median American tends to have a lot of crap in their house, a lot of crap on TeeVee, and a stream of complete bullshit fed to them by their government.

    And if I *need* medical attention, I’m not planning to “take” anything. Lets cut the bullshit sound bites, please.

    I wish you would identify the quotes when you respond to different authors. I didn’t claim that government regulation is “more effective than other alternatives”. Regulation has its place, to be sure, but not because it is more effective at getting results.

  66. > the cowboy-capitalist U.S.

    Sorry to disagree with an otherwise excellent post but mercantilism != capitalism. One can only imagine how great this country would be if it were capitalist; hell, just the lack of FCC meddling alone would’ve probably brought us into the information age in the 30s and 40s instead of the 90s, and there’d be no central banking caused depression to screw it up either.

  67. 3) Per-capita, Swedes have nearly as many computers and more phones than the US.

    4) All of Europe have *far* more cell phones (per capita) than the US.

    Points 3 and 4 could show that Sweden and the rest of the EU have at least as much technical prowess and opportunity as the US.

    Have you ever tried to get a land line in Europe? Many telephone companies are/were the Post Office, if that gives you any clue as to how long you’ll wait. Cell phones were a way around this. Population density is also higher, so the ROI is shorter.

    My mother was a Swede, and I have lived there. Swedes are among the most materialistic, keep up with the Johannsens people on the face of the earth but they will never admit it. Envy is so blatant (if you know the language) that I really feel sorry for them, they don’t really enjoy life so much as the Italians or Eastern Europeans who may have a lot less.

  68. > “proven”? How about a cite?

    Here is what Business Week says about the issue:

    “Current U.S. policies have the country moving backward. Look closely at the evidence: What helped the rollout of broadband in Korea and Japan were not massive government subsidies, as some believe, but policies that allowed vigorous competition. In particular, those countries forced the incumbent phone companies to let startups use their networks at reasonable, government-set prices.”
    http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/04_36/b3898111_mz063.htm

    Business Week highlights “competition”, but the thing that makes that competition possible is *government regulation* which forces telecoms to share their lines at “government-set prices”. Note that this is not the unregulated capitalism that libertarians advocate, but government regulated capitalism. I agree with ESR’s assessment that current FCC regulation is hurting our society, but current FCC regulation doesn’t work because of a failure of our democracy which has been captured by special interests rather than proof that government regulation doesn’t work in general. The reason that so many countries have bypassed the US in broadband coverage in the last 5 years is because they regulated their markets to make sure that competition happens. We took a different course. In other countries, the telecom’s are regulated in the public interest to encourage competition, but in the US, the telecoms are regulated in the the telecom’s interest to stifle competition. A libertarian says that we should just get rid of regulation all together, but if you look at the US economy in the 1890s when there was very little government regulation of business, large monopolies took over many key markets. If we did away with all gvoernment regulation of the economy, we would return to the age of Vanderbilt, Carnegie, and JP Morgan. In some areas of the economy in the 1890s, such as grocery and clothing retailing, there was excellent competition, but in other areas such as oil, steel, and electricity, oppressive monopolies predominated. In some cases no regulation does work and maybe broadband internet is one of those cases, but it is hard to know without any good test cases to prove it. What we do know is that in the last 6 year’s the US has gone from having some of the highest rates of broadband coverage to one of the lower rates of broadband coverage in the developed world. The countries that bypassed us in the last 6 years have careful goverment regulation to encourage broadband competition. According to the Free Press report below, Korea, Netherlands, Denmark, Iceland, Canada, Finland, Norway, and Sweden all do better than the US and all of them regulate to ensure competition:

    Quoting from this report: http://www.freepress.net/docs/broadband_report.pdf

    The FCC defines a “high-speed” connection as one capable of transmitting greater than 200
    kilobits of data per second (kbps) in one direction — upload or download. This speed is just four
    times faster than the typical dial-up connection but far below what countries like Canada consider
    to be “broadband.” Canada defines broadband as a connection capable of transmitting data at
    greater than 1.5 megabits of data per second (Mbps) in both directions. This standard ensures at
    a minimum that consumers can both download and upload video to the Internet. Yet very few of
    the consumer DSL or cable modem services in the United States meet such a standard.
    In the United States, the average Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL) connection offers
    download speeds between 256 kbps and 1.5 Mbps, and upload speeds between 128 kbps and 384
    kbps.5 The average cable modem connection provides download speeds between 2 to 3 Mbps,
    with upload speeds varying between 256 kbps and 384 kbps. These connections cost consumers
    $35 to $50 per month on average.

    By comparison, Japanese consumers have access to broadband connections with speeds up to 100
    Mbps. Prices for these connections are much lower than in the United States. A 26 Mbps
    connection in Japan costs approximately $22 per month. In France, a 15 Mbps connection costs
    about $38 per month. Chairman Martin and other observers point out that these countries are
    more densely populated than the United States, and therefore face fewer challenges when
    implementing broadband service. But Canada, whose population density is one-tenth that of the
    United States, has a broadband penetration rate more than 50 percent higher. Furthermore,
    Canadians have access to 4 Mbps connections at less than $38 per month. The difference is not
    population density or topography. The difference is that other nations have national broadband
    policies designed to create competitive marketplaces.

    Indeed, Martin’s claim that other nations only appear to be doing better because of higher
    population density does not withstand closer scrutiny. Using broadband penetration data on the
    30 leading OECD nations, and controlling for both income and population density, we find eight
    nations performing better than the United States. They are Korea, Netherlands, Denmark, Iceland,
    Canada, Finland, Norway, and Sweden.

    Broadband Subscribers per 100 Inhabitants:
    S. Korea 24.9
    Hong Kong 20.9
    Netherlands 19.4
    Denmark 19.3
    Canada 17.6
    Switzerland 17
    Taiwan 16.3
    Belgium 16
    Iceland 15.5
    Sweden 15.1
    Norway 15
    Israel 14.3
    Japan 14.1
    Finland 12.8
    Singapore 11.6
    USA 11.4
    France 11.2
    UK 10.3
    Austria 10.1
    Portugal 8.5

    Source: International Telecommunications Union, January 2005

  69. The report by Fredrik Bergström & Robert Gidehag does a poor job of comparing the US to the EU. First of all, they use GDP per capita with purchaser power parity (PPP) to compare the economies. PPP calculates how much a dollar will buy in each economy, then adjusts the total GDP by that multiple. In a place where housing and food is expensive because there is little available land and fewer resources like Europe, housing and food (unless imported from abroad) is naturally going to be more expensive than in the US where land is abundant. So the US starts out with a natural advantage in the PPP adjusted income. A fairer comparison is Canada versus the US, because these two countries are closer in natural geography and abundance per capita.

    Secondly, I don’t think that the B & G report ignores all the advice of experts and just focuses on one measure which is frankly not a very good measure. Holistic assessments which measure a variety of factors to determine the standard of living are much better. The UN does such measures and has consistently found Canada to have the highest standard of living in the world. The Scandinavian countries usually follow the Canada. The US is generally in the middle. If you look at public health statistics, gini measure of income inequality, percentage under the poverty line, murder rates, life expectancy, percentage in prisons, and percentage with mental health problems, the US does very poorly compared to the rest of the developed world. If you look at transportation costs and health costs, the US has outrageously high costs, because we have chosen individualistic rather than collective solutions. Living in a place where health care costs 15% of GDP and there is no public transportation is a reduction of my freedom and my standard of living (this is the collective freedom that a libertarian mocks as unimportant).

    Comparing the economies of the EU to USA is comparing apples to oranges. In the US, people are willing to move to go to the most economically productive area, but in the EU, people aren’t willing to move because of languages and cultural barriers. Economists think this is a big factor in determining economic efficiency. However, Canada is closer to the US in this respect, which is another reason to measure Canada vs US, rather than EU vs US.

    Also, it is very important to measure sustainability and negative externalities in comparing economies. Some group tried to measure economic sustainability of various countries (I forget the reference) and they found the US to be near the bottom of the developed world. In contrast, the Scandinavian countries were at the top. It does matter that the US produces 3 times the green house gasses of the average french person and 6 times the average swiss. The US economy is unsustainable and it is going to be very costly to change to a green economy. At the moment, the whole world uses the US dollar, which gives us a huge economic advantage and allows us to have massive deficit spending and keep taxation low. Again, this isn’t sustainable in the long term. Secondly, the US economy is based on exploitive relationships around the world. Increasingly, the Global South is telling us that these exploitive relationships have to end, so we are going to loose another source of wealth in the future. Our oil companies like Exxon-Mobile are simply not going to be profitable in the future once countries stop letting us extract their oil cheaply. IMF/World Bank/WTO coersion is not sustainable in the long term and a number of countries are putting their foot down. Venezuela and Bolivia are openly defying the US now. Brazil and Argentina are getting rid of their IMF debts, so they can’t be coerced in the future, and all of Latin America is going left. The Scandinavian countries are much better prepared for the new economy than the US. Finally, population growth is no sign of economic health. In fact, the places with the fastest population growth in the world have some of the worst standards standards of living and some of the must unsustainable economies.

  70. I searched around for that economic sustainability study and I think I was mistaken–it was a study of environmental sustainability which is a different thing from economic sustainability, although they are related. The Economist had an article about the green economy and was talking about how economies of the future will depend increasingly on environmental factors. The article mentioned this study measuring the Environmental Sustainability Index.(http://sedac.ciesin.columbia.edu/es/esi/downloads.html)

    If we are going to compare Scandinavian social democracies with US cowboy capitalism, then we need to factor in these numbers from the study. It found that the US was 45th out of 146 countries and the Scandanavian countries and Canada were at the top:
    1 Finland 75.1
    2 Norway 73.4
    3 Uruguay 71.8
    4 Sweden 71.7
    5 Iceland 70.8
    6 Canada 64.4
    7 Switzerland 63.7
    8 Guyana 62.9
    9 Argentina 62.7
    10 Austria 62.7
    45 USA 52.9

    Now, let’s look at the UN data for Human Development Index which measures life expectancy, education, and GDP per capita (PPP).
    http://hdr.undp.org/reports/global/2005/pdf/HDR05_HDI.pdf

    Country HDI Life Expect Educ. GDP/cap(PPP) Life Index Ed. Index GDP Index Diff rank GDP – HDI
    1 Norway 0.963 79.4 101 37,670 0.91 0.99 0.99 2
    2 Iceland 0.956 80.7 96 31,243 0.93 0.98 0.96 4
    3 Australia 0.955 80.3 116 29,632 0.92 0.99 0.95 7
    4 Luxembourg 0.949 78.5 88 62,298 0.89 0.95 1.00 –3
    5 Canada 0.949 80.0 94 30,677 0.92 0.97 0.96 2
    6 Sweden 0.949 80.2 114 26,750 0.92 0.99 0.93 14
    7 Switzerland 0.947 80.5 90 30,552 0.93 0.96 0.96 1
    8 Ireland 0.946 77.7 93 37,738 0.88 0.97 0.99 –6
    9 Belgium 0.945 78.9 114 28,335 0.90 0.99 0.94 3
    10 United States 0.944 77.4 93 37,562 0.87 0.97 0.99 –6

    Between 1994 and 2000,Canada was number 1 on this list, but today, the Scandanavian countries top the lists.

    The US does have a high GDP per capita (PPP) but this measure is only part of the story since it obscures the massive income inequality in the US. People often point to the higher growth rates in theUS, but growth is only meaningful if you look at growth per capita to account for changes in population. A growing population like in the US will tend to cause GDP to grow and a shrinking population like in Scandinavia will tend to cause the GDP to shrink.

    People who examine the Asian Tigers conclude that their spectacular growth happened under a capitalism highly regulated by their national governments, not the cowboy capitalism advocated by the US. I read a study of the 90 countries which implemented IMF neoliberal reforms (free trade) reforms during the 1990s, and only 2 (Chile and Thailand) benefited from the neoliberal reforms being pushed by the US government through the IMF/World Bank/WTO. Roughly 20 had ambivalent results and the rest actually fared worse. Ireland has done very well under a less regulated economy with low taxes, but it is important to consider why Ireland has done so well. It has a population of well educated English speakers, is a member of the EU, and had lower housing costs than other parts of the EU. All of these factors made it a great place for EU companies to invest in, but these same factors aren’t found everywhere. Unregulated capitalism with low taxes can sometimes cause higher growth, but other factors are also involved. For instance, Latin America has much lower tax rates than the US and it deregulated most of its utilities during the 90s, but its economies usually didn’t grow and water/electricity/phone service didn’t get much better. Deregulation and free trade are not panaceas and it isn’t clear that they are best for society in general.

    When I look at the green economy of the future, I see little evidence that unregulated capitalism is the best route for preparing to tomorrow’s economy. European energy companies and Asian tech companies are much better prepared than US companies for this transition. Global warming and resource scarcity is going to destroy a lot of dirty economies of today. Economies based on intellectual property are also going to collapse in the future. The rest of the world simply won’t stand for US IP laws. We shouldn’t be so arrogant about future US growth.

  71. Your screed was well-taken but (admittedly as a fan of The Nation) I have to say, a person’s ability to participate in the so-called free market is no substitute for the ability to excercise rights and priveliges as a citizen.
    Your answer to monopoly seems to be the creation of an alternate universe that will give more choice to consumers. This ignores the fact that monopoly is wrong, occurs as a result of the “free” market being manipulated by congressional/corporate scheming and that at the earliest opportunity, monopoly will sleeper-cell into your alternate wi-fi paradiso. At some point we must demand treatment as citizens rather than consumers. As a libertarian it’s hard to beileve that you would place consumerism above citizenship.
    For instance, in most internet service contracts, isn’t there a statement about exclusive use of arbitration (giving up the right to trail-by-jury) when major issues come up. Obviously no thoughtful citizen would lobby their congressman to make such a basic right optional, so who would? Think about that…

  72. Say What?

    guy Says:

    February 8th, 2006 at 2:27 pm
    I wrote before about the wireless they’re rolling out in my neck of the woods – not 802.11x. They’re using Motorola’s Canopy system, while not a mesh network, it still allows “last mile” users to cut the cables that bind. My first setup used a passive repeater was getting 1Mbps at a range of 12 miles.

    I paid $300 for the equipment as seed money for the new company. New users now can just lease the equipment and get the equipment and 1Mbps/256Kbs for I think $35 a month. The ISP is using the watertowers in local towns to save on infastructure costs and have started leapfrogging wireless backhauls to extend the network beyond the wired backbones.

    More Info Please

  73. Since ESR posted his rant, Google has deployed a city-wide wireless network in Mountain View, California using equipment supplied by Tropos Networks, a Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company (http://www.tropos.com). It’s a scalable mesh technology, with most of the devices mounted on street lights, tapping into the photocell plug on top of the light fixture to get AC power. Other than that, most of them don’t have any hardwired connections, getting to the ‘net through radio signals they exchange with their neighbors.

  74. Thank you – I’m always looking for good tips, hints and ideas to improve – I’ve been researching resources now for quite some time, and I’m always trying to come up with interesting ideas for visitors to my site. I’ll be sure to check back soon for more ;-)

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