Meinrath: "Everything Else is Stupid"

By Alex Goldman

March 14, 2007

Will the idea of Cooperative Networking eliminate the telcos from the broadband picture?

At the Freedom to Connect conference, Sascha Meinrath pitched the next way we're going to eliminate the telcos from the upstream. He was talking about the CUWiN Foundation (specializing in "Community Wireless Solutions"). (It was originally the website of the Champaign-Urbana Community Wireless Net.)

He called the talk: Cooperative Networking (a.k.a everything else is stupid).

He pointed out that a 1 Mbps upstream connection is $10 per month in San Francisco, $80 to $90 per month in Chicago, $320 per month in Urbana, and over $1,300 per month in a town you've never heard of, Greenup. And a $1,500 wireless link can take bandwidth to almost anywhere.

"But if we had a free market, wouldn't someone bring bandwidth from where it's cheap to where it's expensive?"

It turns out that there is a network connecting all of Illinois, called the Illinois Century Network (ICN) (map .pdf).

It could provide cheap bandwidth to schools. "So why isn't it being done? Is it technology? Economics? No, it's layer 8 political BS!"

An attendee understood immediately. "Of course, this network can only be used for 'research.' But if we're doing research on how the network gets used (by all sorts of people), then all traffic has a research purpose. Clever."

There are plenty of other solutions to network the nation. For example, if community broadband becomes sufficiently ubiquitous, the local networks could all peer with each other and create a nationwide mesh.

So will it work? It's all being done on a case by case basis, as opportunities present themselves. But we're interested and hope to interview Meinrath in the near future as this project progresses.

In his introduction, Meinrath said, "I'm not about home networking. That's not what I do. I'm not talking about the mesh network. I'm talking about what's next. The next bandwagon that will eliminate the telcos. The telcos hated community networking, but now they're leading the charge. These networks are all over the place, but they're not connected to each other, and they're still relying on the telcos who hate them."

"Still relying on the telcos who hate them." That sounds very, very familiar.

Story courtesy of ISP-Planet.

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