Free Wireless Internet for the Masses: Internet a Right?

RobertKaucherRobertKaucher A cornfield in OhioMember Posts: 4,299 ■■■■■■■■■■
We discussed this topic a little bit a few months ago in the Is the Internet a Human Right thread. And we all had very similar ideas that it is not a right and in my opinion I think it has more in common with a public utility. Not so much that it is a "natural monopoly" but in the way we think of "the Internet" as we do POTS (phone service), electricity, or natural gas. But what one of the founders of Skype is starting might change the way our grandchildren think of the Internet. If in 20 years access to the Internet via a collection of seamlessly integrated wireless technologies takes hold and everything, I mean everything (your phone, fridge, home, car, dog), are all connected at a minimal cost, our attitude might be more in line with thinking of it as air.
When you think of basic human rights, access to wireless broadband Internet probably isn't at the top of the list. But a new company backed by a Skype cofounder disagrees, and plans to bring free mobile broadband to the U.S. later this year under the slogan "The Internet is a right, not a privilege."
Free Wireless Broadband for the Masses - Technology Review

Comments

  • the_Grinchthe_Grinch Member Posts: 4,165 ■■■■■■■■■■
    I've always thought of it this way, if people don't have enough to eat or drink why would they care about having the internet? Exporting technology to third world countries (and rural America) is a great idea, if it serves a purpose. Saying "oh here's internet access, it's your right to have" doesn't have a whole lot of meaning without training and a computer. How many of the people who do not have the internet, also do not have a computer? I think there is a lot more they could be doing and it just seems like a way to exploit the poor.
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  • RobertKaucherRobertKaucher A cornfield in OhioMember Posts: 4,299 ■■■■■■■■■■
    Well, having lived in the "3rd world" for a decade I can tell you that even though people don't have PCs, they frequently have cell phones. Except in the poorest and most undeveloped areas, of course. But that isn't really what the article is about.

    This is a US venture. And certainly in the US today most adults have cellphones. I'll tell you straight up. If it were not for the Internet, I would be a 37 year old man working in a no-where job in retail or (god forbid!) fast food. I would be a completely different person than I am now. The Internet gave me the ability to educate and train myself in a way that could not have done without it. So, IMO, providing good services more cheaply to a wider audience is in no way exploitation.
  • the_Grinchthe_Grinch Member Posts: 4,165 ■■■■■■■■■■
    Fair enough, but having the internet isn't going to magically motivate an unmotivated person. I applaud you for getting out of the terrible situation you were in, but it doesn't mean everyone will do it. While it is true lots of people have cell phones, doesn't mean they are always smartphones (which are usually the phones the have the ability to connect to wifi). Also, to your point, how would one take an online class on their cell phone? While I can respect what their trying to do, I can't help, but think perhaps the effort would be better spent on opening computer centers where one could go to get online schooling and access to the internet. Or at least combine their effort with one working to give people linux machines for their homes that could be combined with the "free" internet. Training is as vital (if not slightly more vital) then granting access. I could use my parents as an example, they wouldn't really know what to do with the internet if I didn't show them what they could accomplish. Once given some basic training, they have been off to the races ever since.
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  • tpatt100tpatt100 Member Posts: 2,991 ■■■■■■■■■□
    I thought I heard on a podcast that Google and some other companies were trying to push the idea of wireless technologgies for the masses. Part of the suspected reason was to get away from the internet providers trying to monopolize and put tighter control over the internet. I suspect its to push voip as the standard means of communication.
  • veritas_libertasveritas_libertas CISSP, GIAC x5, CompTIA x5 Greenville, SC USAMember Posts: 5,738 ■■■■■■■■■■
    Yeah, I doubt this new venture is going to be more successful. Wireless Internet just cannot seem to gain a foothold.
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  • RobertKaucherRobertKaucher A cornfield in OhioMember Posts: 4,299 ■■■■■■■■■■
    the_Grinch wrote: »
    Fair enough, but having the internet isn't going to magically motivate an unmotivated person. I applaud you for getting out of the terrible situation you were in, but it doesn't mean everyone will do it. While it is true lots of people have cell phones, doesn't mean they are always smartphones (which are usually the phones the have the ability to connect to wifi).
    I'm not being a jerk when I ask this, but isn't this kind of implying that the poor are poor because they are unmotivated?
    the_Grinch wrote: »
    Also, to your point, how would one take an online class on their cell phone?
    I have done online training on my phone many times. On Plural-Sight I have watched nearly every one of the Design Pattern videos on my phone. Because these topics deal a lot with concepts over code I am easily able to assimilate what they are talking about without having to do anything other than listen. Those videos alone made me a better developer. Also, the "phone" can be a hot spot. So using a cheap tablet is also possible.
    the_Grinch wrote: »
    While I can respect what their trying to do, I can't help, but think perhaps the effort would be better spent on opening computer centers where one could go to get online schooling and access to the internet. Or at least combine their effort with one working to give people linux machines for their homes that could be combined with the "free" internet. Training is as vital (if not slightly more vital) then granting access. I could use my parents as an example, they wouldn't really know what to do with the internet if I didn't show them what they could accomplish. Once given some basic training, they have been off to the races ever since.
    True! But one organization or company cannot do everything. And you should consider that what this is doing is really opening things up to a slippery-slope. Once a company is in the field offering something like this creates a ripple effect in the market. If they are successful with this it could have a very positive impact on many people just because of these side effects.
  • Novalith478Novalith478 Member Posts: 151
    If poor people want to use internet so badly, why don't they just pay $3 an hour and go to a cyber cafe? That's what I would do. It's not like there's some sort of oppression going on. People shouldn't have the "right" to internet (sets a dangerous precedent of claiming all sorts of other things are "rights"), but they certainly have the ability to go to a cyber cafe and pay a small amount for internet access.
  • the_Grinchthe_Grinch Member Posts: 4,165 ■■■■■■■■■■
    Nope wasn't implying that all poor people are unmotivated. But, we also can't make the blanket statement that every poor person is a victim to not being given an equal chance either. To your point of using the phone as a wireless hot spot, who is going to show someone with no technical skills how to do this? As I said, they could partner with another organization to provide computers and even another for training. This company is making the assumption that no access is the root cause of the problem. But one could argue more successfully that it is lack of training or ability to get equipment that is the true problem.

    We could quite literally debate the issue for days, but that isn't the aim. I happen to work in a city with one of the largest digital divides in the country (Philadelphia). In a survey, a mere 20% of residents in North and West Philadelphia had computers in their home. When I was a student here they attempt to rollout some city wide wireless that was plagued with issues from the beginning:

    1. Signal was terrible inside users home
    2. Financing was hard to come by
    3. Users lack the technical know how to setup equipment
    4. Users lacked required equipment (due to costs)

    The service went from being free, to being a reduced cost, and finally dying. Now currently there is a non-profit that has been setting up computing centers at various locations throughout the city. They provide training, computers, and internet to anyone that would like to come in. Thus far they have been very successful and are expanding. I'd really like to see companies like the above bring in social workers, sociologist, and people from the communities they plan to serve and get their opinions. From there develop a true plan for what you want to do and have some hard facts. How much will it cost, how much bandwidth will I be allotted, equipment requirements/costs, and the technical specs for success.

    If they were to bring in local colleges they would be even more successful. College students help do support, repairs, and installs for experience (or perhaps on a coop basis for a little bit of cash) and also gain some community experience on top of it. As of right now I can only say they are doomed to failure much like wireless Philadelphia.
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  • erpadminerpadmin Member Posts: 4,165
    ^^^^

    Yes, I remember Philly trying to do this when I was working for a municipality. Philly was so proud that they were going to roll out hotspots throughout the whole city and that every city in the country was going to use Philly as a model.....

    I'm ok with charities, companies, college kids, heck even myself [without being forced], providing time and money to bring the poor up to speed and lessen the technological gap. I will only take issue when I'd be forced to do it with my tax dollars. No one pays for my Internet, or my sweet unlimited data cellular plan from Verizon....[got it right before the caps too...]

    My original stance from the last time this was discussed still stands.
  • tpatt100tpatt100 Member Posts: 2,991 ■■■■■■■■■□
    Well I remember reading how many telecoms especially Verizon pay almost no taxes so technically the citizens are already subsidizing internet access. The providers offer subsidized internet access in a lot of areas already, Comcast has 10 dollar a month plans for low income families.
  • Novalith478Novalith478 Member Posts: 151
    That's good, kudos to them. It's nice to see multi-million dollar corporations do that, makes me have some faith in corporate America.
  • networker050184networker050184 Mod Posts: 11,962 Mod
    Well they aren't doing it out of the goodness of their hearts. I'm sure the tax breaks far out weigh the discounted internet!
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  • tpatt100tpatt100 Member Posts: 2,991 ■■■■■■■■■□
    Well it was a deal with the government basically since Comcast is going to take over everything cable wise anyways lol

    Comcast's $9.99 Internet for low-income families goes nationwide
    Comcast rolled out its Internet Essentials program nationwide today, offering low-income families in its service territory $10/month Internet connections and access to $150 computers.Any family with at least one child who qualifies for the free lunch program at public schools can subscribe to a low-speed (1.5Mbps) Comcast Internet connection for $9.95 a month. Comcast guarantees that it won't raise the price and offers the plan without equipment rental or activation fees. Subscribers also cannot have "an overdue Comcast bill or unreturned equipment," and they can't have had Comcast Internet in the last 90 days.
    Comcast has agreed to sign up families to the program for at least three years, and it also promises to provide free Internet and computer training to those who need it.
    Internet Essentials has been rolled out in cities around the country throughout the year—it came to Chicago back in May—but the DC launch today was used to "officially" launch the national program. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski was on hand to praise Comcast for helping overcome the "digital divide."
    "Students increasingly need to go online to complete their homework assignments," he said. "But one-third of all students and a majority of low-income children can’t. It's not because there aren't countless kids trying to do their very best. We heard about a high school girl in Florida who does her homework in the parking lot of the local library each night, because the library’s wifi hot spot is the only way she can get online."
    Every student in the US needs to be "digitally literate," Genachowski said, because it's their "ticket to a new job."

    Comcast: $10/month Internet—and cheap netbooks—for the poor
    The union of Comcast and NBC Universal has beengiven the green light by the Federal Communications Commission and the Department of Justice, but it comes with a host of detailed concessions from Comcast. Among them: cheap broadband for the poor, nondiscrimination rules that protect Internet video companies, and several limits on Comcast's newfound Hulu leverage.
  • RobertKaucherRobertKaucher A cornfield in OhioMember Posts: 4,299 ■■■■■■■■■■
    the_Grinch wrote: »
    Nope wasn't implying that all poor people are unmotivated. But, we also can't make the blanket statement that every poor person is a victim to not being given an equal chance either. To your point of using the phone as a wireless hot spot, who is going to show someone with no technical skills how to do this? As I said, they could partner with another organization to provide computers and even another for training. This company is making the assumption that no access is the root cause of the problem. But one could argue more successfully that it is lack of training or ability to get equipment that is the true problem.

    I think you are reading far too much into this. This is not a charity, this is a business model for them. 1 GB of free wireless data is only a component of what they are offering. It's not an attempt to end poverty, it's an attempt to provide a good service that helps them make money. There are plenty of people who could take advantage of this. And being social animals we spread new technologies via teaching. If this sort of thing takes off every person with one of these things between 15 and 25 will know how to set it up as a hot spot because there will be YouTube videos they can watch on their phones showing them how. And then they will show their parents. Again, this isn't a charity. They are just upping the bar on the commoditization of data plans. If they don't fail, this means lower cost data plans for everyone because the market will demand it.
    "In our minds, the access piece is already a commodity we're looking to further commoditize, in the same way Skype did with voice," Miller says.

    But I do think that the primary point of impact is going to be lower income people who will benefit from this service.

    Consider this quote:
    The current plans offer 200 MB for $15 per month or 2 GB for $25 per month. Mobile hotspot customers paid $25 per month for the 2 GB plan and another $20 for 2 GB of hotspot data, for a monthly total of 4 GB for $45.

    Moving forward, there will be three new plans for smartphones: 300 MB for $20 per month; 3 GB for $30 per month; and 5 GB for $50 per month. The $50 plan also includes mobile hotspot/tethering.


    AT&T has increased the cost of its monthly data plans for tablets, too. The prices mirror those of the smartphone plans, which cost $15 for 250 MB, $30 for 3 GB, or $50 for 5 GB.
    AT&T Tweaks Data Plan Prices - Mobility - 3G wireless/broadband - Informationweek

    Who is going to go to AT&T when you can get a data plan from this company that is giving you 1 GB free and the charging close to $0.01 per MB after that? If they can turn a buck and provide these kinds of services, it's going to be a game changer. It means more and cheaper access and if AT&T, Verizon, etal want to keep charging $50+ a month they are going to have to provide better technology or more speed or both. And that's good for all of us.
  • tpatt100tpatt100 Member Posts: 2,991 ■■■■■■■■■□
    Yeah I do see the need for companies to step up and offer data alternatives. When AT&T started putting caps on their plans and they say it wont impact many people since most people don't use much data anyways, it would be nice for somebody to realize that maybe people who hardly use data would not want to pay 30-50 dollars a month for limited data.
  • the_Grinchthe_Grinch Member Posts: 4,165 ■■■■■■■■■■
    Perhaps, but I highly doubt this will make it. They aren't the first to try and it seems will still have the big four carriers (after numerous attempts to take them down).
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  • RobertKaucherRobertKaucher A cornfield in OhioMember Posts: 4,299 ■■■■■■■■■■
    the_Grinch wrote: »
    Perhaps, but I highly doubt this will make it. They aren't the first to try and it seems will still have the big four carriers (after numerous attempts to take them down).
    I agree. But I also wonder how the hell Amazon ever managed to last long enough to make any money, so I'm going to remain agnostic until I see it.
  • SteveLordSteveLord Member Posts: 1,717
    They advertise government cellphones on TV, so why not internet next? And then cars next of course.
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  • the_Grinchthe_Grinch Member Posts: 4,165 ■■■■■■■■■■
    I agree. But I also wonder how the hell Amazon ever managed to last long enough to make any money, so I'm going to remain agnostic until I see it.

    Solid point on Amazon!
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