Phone Barons / Non-profit LAN anyone?

elliot smith (smithe@minot.com)
Fri, 10 May 1996 02:38:18 -0500


I agree that the phone companies might well get us one way or the other.
For example, what would stop them from using sophisticated compression
chips such as those used in some places for cell phones to restrict
bandwidth on local calls to just that required for voice, and then charge
extra for extra bandwidth required for digital networking?

btw in my last message when I said interface the phone network with the
Internet, I meant substitute the Internet for the long distance phone
network -- for example to call a friend in another state, you pick up the
phone via a voice local call, call your ISP, punch in some numbers on the
phone pad so you ISP, over the 'net connects you to your friend's ISP, who
dials up your friend over a second local call. Similar such setups are
already in place in limited areas, I think so that users of Iphone or
something can call people on a traditional phone. But I submit to you that
such organizations are going to be as interested in profit as are the phone
companies.

One solution to increase competition and actually drive down the price for
consumers is to use the air waves. But that technology is expensive, and
will never be as good as plain old wires. But God only knows who owns the
service poll in my back yard. And Only the cable companies and phone
companies have the capital to run such a physical network. But the price
of network stuff like routers &c is coming down like all other computer
equipment...
So I was thinking, the solution would be for a non-profit community
organization to wire neighborhoods. I don't know if a company can come
into a block of houses and install underground conduit, and if they did it
would no doubt be in the public interest to regulate it like the phone
network is regulated -- allowing anyone to sell service over the network.
But in any case if all the residents in a neighborhood bought into
the plan, you could run the conduit. You could set up a LAN consisting of
ethernet connections for every house and routers here and there in little
sheds. The LAN could buy Internet *and* phone access

(making it possible for users to use the LAN for all needs, even phone
needs, if the LAN was interfaced with the phone system as described in the
above scheme. It could make long-distance calls on behalf of users to
areas that don't have a LAN interfaced with the phone system)

at reduced rates, and cut out the middleman of the Internet Provider who
imho is as interested in profit as the phone company.....
So like I was thinking this network could be entirely underground,
you could even use a special drilling machine to run conduit under streets
without tearing them up. cool, huh? :-) There is no reason why people
shouldn't join together to bring themselves the best network at the lowest
price. Granted, very few areas of the US already have the concentration of
'net savvy residents to make such a LAN possible.... Although a $50 or even
$100 LAN <--> analog telephone adapter would certainly make the LAN useful
for even non-net users. But such a cake walk for consumers sure as heck
isn't going to just happen!

This kind of leads into another idea I have : I want to start a
non-profit company whose goal is to provide computer software / services /
hardware. The mission of this company would be to serve the consumer,
rather than to make as much money as possible. The company would employ
people, but the difference is that the company would not offer millions of
dollars to CEOs or even to the owner(s) or stockholders because the only
owners would be the consumers. The company would not use for-profit
practices to grow into a huge company. (But it would be nice if the
company could get real big!) This is very significant because so many
companies MICROSOFT these days are only interested MICROSOFT ;-) in making
money. I don't subscribe to the notion that the only way to serve the
consumer is through the type of capitalism we have today. In fact, the
type of capitalism we have today, unregulated by government or consumers
(i.e. YOU) results in less competition and a lower quality of life for
consumers. I invite you to participate in this project to start an
internet-based non-profit organization. E-mail me if you are interested in
a lot of hard work and we can start a cc list. I think for example that
such a company could support software developers and help developers
distribute their products.
Please e-mail in private because I don't want to turn the cu-see-me
list into the consumers-advocacy-and-who-knows-what-else list :-)
-Elliot Smith

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