Do we really need ISPs? or How an ISP is like a drug cartel / by Jared

    Ok, let's start with the motivation for this post.  Being in the IT field I hear all manner of complaints about technology.  One in particular is the grievance "I hate Comcast, but I have no other choice" or "When will FIOS get here?".  This struck me as an unfair system which gives you limited choices for internet connectivity and an unfair advantage to ISPs who control an area.  I looked oligopoly up online to find that ISPs are exactly that.  The part that threw me for a loop is this line in the description "Where there is a formal agreement for such collusion, this is known as a cartel."  Wow, the majority of the time I hear that word it's is preceded by "Columbian Drug".  Now, I'm sure the government is constantly on the lookout for collusive practices and shady dealings between these companies, but why should they have to?  

    So that's the problem. The solution I came up with is a technological one with lots of roadblocks and outstanding social issues which make it a very interesting topic.  Let's start with "The Device".  Basically, this device would function much like your wireless router you have at home right now.  You could connect it to an existing cable modem or DSL modem and distribute that connectivity via wired or wireless connections.  The additions to the device would be 

    1)  It would have local cache of data.  Some of this data would function much like a proxy server would cache website data.  The other half would store situational information about what environment the unit was in (ie. highly populated area with many "like" devices, very sparse area with loads of interference).

    2)  It would automatically share its connectivity with "like" devices in its area. (This is the most controversial aspect of this device and we'll cover that in a bit).

    The scenario I can envision with a device such as this would progress the through the following steps.

    This is the current situation.


    Releasing these devices as replacements for the normal home wireless router enabling automatic wireless sharing. 


    Eventually ending up with the following user generated infrastructure.


    I like this concept for the following reasons:

  1. It has built in fail-over capabilities (no more outages for a downed wire because someone in your net still has a Verizon connection or is on another cable provider)
  2. It spreads the ISP charges over a larger user base making the connection more cost effective and the larger group can hold more sway with the ISPs (ever tried to talk your ISP down in price?).
  3. It re-instills the core principal of the internet, everyone is equal on the net.  It also adds in the ownership of it.  The internet would no longer be a service we subscribe to, but a core infrastructure which we own and operate (much like our roads and highways without the bureaucracy of government in the way).

    I dislike this concept for the following reasons:

  1. Security - It could be a nightmare to track down malicious users depending on how the self-aware system is setup.
  2. Technical Limitations - From the discussions I've had with network professionals there would be many of them and possibly would not work at all with current network standards and protocols.

Given this hypothetical scenario there are many aspects that have to be discussed and worked on.  I will be writing a follow up article going over in detail how a device like this would work and what the ramifications would be.  My challenge to you is to think about how you would like your internet to look.  Are you happy with what is currently available, or would an idea like this be something that could make a better the user experience better?  What do you think?