Saturday, July 4, 2015

Economics of Abundance

Jeremy Rifkin, The Zero Marginal Cost Society

The prospect of [people] financing the generation of their own green energy and overseeing its use and distribution with their own wireless devices at near zero marginal cost has come a step closer to reality with the recent recommendation of free Wi-Fi for everyone. In February 2013, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the oversight body that regulates the U.S. [telecom] industry, dropped a bombshell. The commission published a proposal that would create “super Wi-Fi networks” across America, making wireless connection free for everyone. The FCC plan is to require television stations and other broadcasters to sell back to the government unused airwaves so they can be reemployed for public Wi-Fi networks. The reused broadcast frequencies would have a reach of a mile or more, be able to penetrate walls and enclosures, and allow users to make free calls from their mobile phones on the Internet, as well as use the Wi-Fi connection in their homes and businesses for free, slashing the cost of Internet bills.

The harnessing of near zero marginal cost communications to manage near zero marginal cost renewable energy gives society the critical operating platform to [..] change the economic paradigm. The controversial FCC proposal has pitted the wireless carriers of the nation’s great telecommunications companies, including AT&T, T-Mobile, Intel, and Verizon, against the equally formidable Internet and IT companies like Google and Microsoft. The former, which have paid out billions of dollars to secure FCC spectrum licenses, risk heavy losses to their $178 billion wireless industry. [..] Google is already providing free Wi-Fi in the Chelsea section of Manhattan and in some neighborhoods in Silicon Valley.

Industry analysts are predicting that free Wi-Fi “could replace carrier service.” The FCC is of a like mind. One FCC official says, “We want our policy to be more end-user-centric and not carrier-centric.

The FCC proposal comes as a result of dramatic technological advances over the past decade that have transformed the electromagnetic spectrum from a scarce resource to a potentially infinitely available one, just like solar, wind, and geothermal heat [..] The spectrum itself was viewed as a scarce resource and therefore regarded as a valuable commercial asset.

Today, new technologies for managing communications over the radio frequencies have made the concept of the spectrum as a scarce resource null and void. That new reality is changing the very nature of broadcast communications. Smart antennas, dynamic spectrum access, cognitive radio technologies, and mesh networks are among the new technologies that are expanding the spectrum to an abundant resource by using it more efficiently and with greater agility [..]

Many industry observers say that the new technologies are going to make the airwaves “so abundant that there would be no justification for the government to ration access to spectrum or to give some services priority over others.” In the near future, everyone will be able to share Earth’s abundant free air waves, communicating with each other for nearly free, just as we will share the abundant free energy of the sun, wind, and geothermal heat [..].

The use of open wireless connections over a free Wi-Fi network is likely going to become the norm in the years to come, not only in America, but virtually everywhere. It’s just too beneficial for the human race to turn down, regardless of the push back by conventional wired carriers. The notion of communicating over proprietary, centralized, wired communications networks is going to be little more than a historical curiosity to young people living in the mid-twenty-first century.

We are waking up to a new reality that is difficult to fathom. We have been so convinced of the economics of scarcity that we can hardly believe that an economy of abundance is possible. But it is. New communications technologies are turning the broadcast spectrum from a scarce resource to an abundant one, just as with information, renewable energy, 3D printing, and online college courses. The journey to an economy of abundance, however, is cluttered with roadblocks that could delay and even derail the collaborative era. The challenge is finding a governance model that can take society into the new paradigm.


Yes, please a-please let's replace the carrier services... These people are engaged in grandt-theft of people's money simply making use of their entrenched position in infrastructure that is stuck in a limbo, in no small part due to their existence. Free Wifi in cities would fix a lot of problems.