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Ubiquitous, Endless Bandwidth, August 15, 1999 :: Ben Turner's Soapbox

 

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archived soapbox: August 15, 1999
"Ubiquitous, Endless Bandwidth" [permalink]
    keywords: internet, bandwidth
    soapbox #: 200
    written: August 15, 1999
    words: 1033

"Ubiquitous, Endless Bandwidth", an Essay

Yet again, the inspirational Muses touched lightly upon my forehead with all their grace while I sat at a grimy, uneven, jittery table in my dorm's scam cafeteria. Nothing makes one think about the hidden beauty of the world more than stupid frat kids laughing hysterically about nothing, boisterous geeks slamming their cups repeatedly on the tables, and a TV set blaring soap operas into our poor ears.

I sit and eat, longing for better technology, reading the newspaper. Being the complete Internet addict I am, I consider eating time the perfect time to read news online, or watch stocks, or whatever. Unfortunately, technology has not progressed to the point where that is possible to do unless you tote around a huge laptop or stay at home at your desktop.

Where's the love, baby? Where's the wireless digital Internet connections screaming through the air, patched through to a multiple OC3 routing system that streams information to and from my featherweight mini-laptop device? Where's the pocket-size SVGA LCD that I can pull out to rape Yahoo! of stock quotes and Dow Jones news, then hit Blue's News and /. for gaming/tech news? Or, if that's asking too much, where are the cheap, installable mini-monitor interfaces that businesses and public places can install onto their tables and benches for easy access?

Where's the implants or headsets/glasses that let you download and upload information and content while you're moving? That let you grab restaurant reviews, product reviews, traffic reports, etc.?

Bandwidth isn't accessible. Heck, you can barely get good bandwidth at home yet. I hear my roommate redialing and redialing his modem trying to get a 56K connect. This is pathetic, people. Bandwidth is still something of a rare commodity, and companies like AT&T and the Baby Bells and @Home and Time Warner and MediaOne (all in bed together) are trying their hardest to hold onto it. Bandwidth does not flow freely to us end-users. It is funneled down to us and controlled by the huge selfish companies. Points of entry are strictly watched and granted. The cable providers and DSL/ISDN providers are placing rigid cap limits on downloads and uploads to control the use of the bandwidth even further. If these companies could, they'd treat it like cable television; they already get to control exactly WHICH channels you are able to watch. (which is dangerous)

I dream of when bandwidth is something of a commodity that is all around us, like oxygen, easy to access and limitless in its throughput. All you need is an interface of some sort to receive the bandwidth into whatever device you have. Hardlines will still be the prime choice, but wireless/satellite/etc. won't be a big deal. Various ISPs will compete as fiercely as they do already for modem use now. Pirate/independent ISPs can hook in too, if they have the hardware. Free ISPs could therefore exist (they do now, but not without heavy advertising money) and provide access to those who can't afford it. It wouldn't be so rigidly controlled by companies who do daft things like grant amnesty to cable thieves, oblivious to the fact that their whole policy towards cable television is restrictive and destructive.

Cyberpunk literature seemed to have it right. Access was never an issue. Characters weren't fretting about whether they lived 10,000 feet away from their DSL provider or not. What a crock it is to put up with this shit today. There were no bandwidth concerns. There was a whole damn world online that people could constantly be tapped into. Why hasn't there been more development online as far as creating a virtual world goes? What was interesting to me recently was seeing Yugoslavia Online, a web site that united all Yugoslavians into an online country of sorts. It has a constitution and membership rules and so on. I'm surprised there's not been more of this. Sort of a city map of virtual locations, to improve useability, navigability, intuitability, etc. Think of it as a whole giant Yahoo!, or one big Geocities. Each country or burgh or state or whatever would have its own districts that allowed certain types of businesses or organizations or housing. Granted, since space would be infinite, people could always live on their own, but perhaps in an online city, living in one city granted you the privileges of protection and assistance. Living in New Metaville would give you hack protection from site crackers, police protection from computer burglaries. When every computer's going to be hooked up to the 'Net, you're looking at potential for abuse.

Living in an online address that others would kill for, right on the virtual Tuscan hillsides or Scottish highlands. Online voting precincts. Buying a seat on the virtual NASDAQ stock exchange. Settling down in an online residence with your girlfriend thousands of miles away. Obviously objects and material things would cost nothing online, since you could create them easily, but services and interaction with others online will require costs, credits, and debt. The possibilities are endless.

I'm just not satisfied with what we have now. It's so primitive. It's disappointing, in a way. There is so much room for ingenuity, creativity, innovation. As far as the Internet bubble goes, it has a LONG life ahead of it. Sure, it will have its moments of bitter weakness, times of stagnation and setbacks, but we have so far to travel still.

And it all comes back to me, Ben, sitting at my cafeteria table, eating bacteria-infested, stale-breaded food, wishing I could be examining MACD and RSI curves on stock charts, reading the latest international news off CNN.com, trading messages with my employer about the latest work to be completed, sending words of love and devotion to my Anna.

Sigh. I've been at this same old table before. There is so much to do. And when all this is set in motion, I'll be there to capitalize it. Not sure how yet (simple, yet necessary Internet service, anyone?), but I'll be there.


 
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