Hey, Supreme Court benchwarmers: Ever heard of Wi-Fi?

About six months ago, tiny telco trucks began to appear surreptitiously on the streets of my New England town, putting up wires on almost every street.

By Jeff Bairstow

About six months ago, tiny telco trucks began to appear surreptitiously on the streets of my New England town, putting up wires on almost every street. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but curiosity got the better of me and I just had to stick my nose into one of those trucks and ask, “What the heck is going on?” to the assembled engineers who were chugging down industrial-strength java. “Fiberoptics” was the laconic answer.

That’s good news, I thought, because my DSL service at that time was erratic, to say the least. Now you’re talking real bandwidth, if not FTTH, then at least FTTC. I hastily declined the offer of a steaming mug of joe and went on my merry way.

So, back home, I called the telco’s local business office and inquired as to how I might get this “fiber-optic” service. “Ah-um, we’ll call you back,” was the reply. Sure enough, after many moons, the telco did call back and, to cut a long story short, I am now experiencing the Internet at speeds of up to 5 Mbit/s download and 2 Mbit/s upload. “Whoa!” I could even get 15 Mbit/s download for an extra ten bucks a month. We’re looking at 45 bucks a month here-a nice piece of change for the telco. But it’s “Bye-bye, cable guy” and “Hello, telco!” in the Bairstow household.

By the way, you can check your own web speeds at any number of websites, but the one I prefer is (internet.sunrise.ch/fr/adsl/ads_ser_speed.asp). It’s in French but it is truly a fun site.

What does all this have to do with all the cheese in China, you may be asking? Well, in late June, the United States Supreme Court made a decision that not only highlighted the Court’s supreme ignorance of the market place, but also threw more than a few of the smaller Internet Service Providers (ISP’s) into a death spiral from which many may not survive. These bozos of the bench decided that the big carriers don’t have to share their cables with the annoying upstart, johnny-come-lately, pipsqueak competitors.

The issue here is the nature of the giant beasts in the telco and cable markets. Verizon has just stuffed a fiberoptic pipe into a box outside my home that, by using WDM, for example, can bring unlimited communications bandwidth into the venerable Bairstow family home. OK, so Verizon is highly unlikely to use even 1% of that bandwidth and, now that the mighty Supreme Court has demonstrated its ineptitude and incompetency, Verizon can keep all that lovely fiber as dark as the night. Did I hear Verizon snoring or is that the noise of stacks of freshly minted dollar bills tumbling into the fat laps of the overfed, somnolent Verizon executives?

But, wait a minute, what about us poor customers? Who represented us at the U.S. Supreme Court? Who decides what gets piped into our homes? Verizon, ComCast, Time-Warner? Hey, guys, let’s talk a little Adam Smith here and let the free market decide-not a ghoulish bunch of black-robed pedants. And, I’ll not get into the issue of sell-by dates, here. “Hi, judges, old fellas, this is the 21st century, in case you hadn’t noticed.” How do they prop these guys up behind the bench, anyway?

In case you were wondering (and even if you weren’t) my view is that we should let the cable and telco monsters fight it out somewhere where they can’t do much damage-Afghanistan maybe-and put a whole bunch of dough into the emerging wireless companies and I don’t mean the cell-phone giants. No, the place to park some of your walking-around money is with the little guys who will neatly sidestep the biggies with their absurd phalanxes of lawyers and lobbyists.

We’re talking outfits like Boingo (Santa Monica, CA), Cometa (San Francisco, CA), IPass (Redwood Shores, CA), Surf and Sip (San Francisco), and Wayport (Austin, TX). These guys are privately owned, but get on their IPO lists if you can, because these embryo Wi-Fi service providers will either strike it rich or get taken over by some ponderous billion-dollar megalith for jillions of dollars. Don’t say I never give you a heads-up. You could look them up.


Jeffrey Bairstow
Contributing Editor

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