By ‘parasitic grids’ they mean free community networks using wireless ethernet to connect any user to the Internet via generous users’ DSL, cable modem, or fatter connections. Of course, as I’ve stated here before, I think that’s a good idea, since it’s hard for most users to put the full bandwidth of their broadband connections to work and most websurfing is relatively low-bandwidth to begin with. And if this does but a bite into so-called ‘3G’ services that allow for faster web-enabled cell-phones and the like, so be it.
The spectrum that all wireless services use is a ‘public good’ to begin with, and only false scarcity makes it a true commodity. The more efficient the use of it, the more the overall public benefit, and the less scarce it is. Thus, commercial wireless providers are, in a way, trying to profit on a public good (although now they’ve been forced to bid for it), and the typical way to do that is to add value, such as services. But, due to all sorts of bumbling around, it looks like 3G providers have yet to be successful at adding that value in any substantial way. They’re spending millions of dollars on rolling out these services while the folks setting up wireless freenets are spending just hundreds.No wonder why the freenets appear to be winning.
It’s funny that Infoworld would jump on the term ‘parasitic grid’ — if this were 1999 and some new startup were offering free wireless access as part of its “business plan,” would the word parasitic ever be applied? I think not. Yet NetZero and at least a hundred other completely flawed “give it away for free so we can make a profit” ideas ended up throwing away billions of dollars in startup capital, much of it wasted on parties, advertising and other promotional bullshit–all for what? And that’s NOT parasitic?
The free wireless nets are just doing something better for free that a bunch of corporations so far have been unable to do with billions in investment–what’s so wrong with that? Infoworld isn’t saying outright that anything is wrong, but seizing on that word ‘parasitic’ clearly shows their attitude nonetheless. I guess I’m being a parasite when I throw a dinner party for my friends instead of making them eat out at a restaurant.
Thanks to my pal Arun for pointing this one out.