JCL Blog

Uncorking Wireless

Not long ago most WiFi routers were open.  People did not bother to secure them because they did not believe they had anything to worry about.  Then came FireSheep, an extension to the FireFox browser, that showed everyone how they were exposed on public and open WiFi connections.

Now most WiFi routers are secure and I bet people like AT&T and Comcast and Verizon think that is a pretty good thing.  After all, they are selling bandwidth in fixed bundles and no one is maximizing the amount they use.  

Enter the OpenWireless movement.  This group has set about to establish new standards through which the vulnerabilities exposed by FireSheep can be addressed and promoting the idea that everyone should share their internet connection.  Quite a few organizations are supporting the initiative including the Electronic Frontier Foundation.  Others including Open Garden are introducing new technologies that make it easier to share bandwidth between devices or people.

This is important because it is yet another way that the Internet can route around obsticles.  The Internet is naturally suited to find the best (easiest / cheapest) way round a blockage and we all need to do what we can to support that kind of thinking.  If the Information Superhighway becomes a toll road, we all lose.

My Biggest Summer Vacation Cost Was Bandwidth

We have an old tug boat and every year we take it to Canada for vacation.  We go to a somewhat remote area where there are not many opportunities to spend money.  So we bring fuel, food, and most of the other items we need with us.

Despite this, we do find ways to spend money at a small local grocery store.  We buy fresh produce, fishing licenses, bait, and hamburgers at the hamburger stand.  In the three weeks of our trip this year, we spent up to a few hundred dollars on each of these categories.

None of them compare to our spending on bandwidth however.  While in Canada we roam onto the Rogers network and our international data plan from Verizon delivers data bandwidth at a price of $25 for each 100 MB.  A movie download from iTunes is usually about 1.7 GB -- so at Verizon's price it would cost $425 -- so movies are not on the approved list!  Audiobooks are about 300 MB or $75 -- so no audiobooks either.  A song on iTunes is 10 MB -- so if you buy a song you pay iTunes $.99 and Rogers/Verizon $2.50.

I am sure many of you think this is a one off thing, but I bet many people found themselves in my position this summer.  The MiFi is awesome, but it you take it to a foreign country - watch out!  Now that we just expect to have data access all of the time we have forgotten that bandwidth costs money.  All it takes is one of these experiences and you start to think about how much bandwidth metering by the mobile carriers could dampen eCommerce.  

In the end we paid $1,150 for bandwidth over 3 weeks, or about $55 per day.  Some of this came from one computer that had automatic updates turned on and downloaded 500 MB of windows updates before I turned it off.  Yow!  Windows update cost me $125!