Could Gigabit Internet Lead to a More Decentralized Web?

The hosts of DTNS discuss Patrick’s newfound embarrassment of riches after moving to Finland, where he gets more home broadband bandwidth than he can use. What to do with it all? I have some ideas —

Their discussion made me wonder if we have gotten too used to consumerized home broadband — by getting our internet from our cable TV providers, has it limited our imagination to just getting faster movies, bigger video games, and more streaming music? What about our contributions to the web? What about our ability to own our own home on the web?

Own Your Own Hosting Again

I remember in the late’90s when most Americans had a small-scale, local DSL or dial-up internet provider, it was much more common to host your own web server from your home internet connection. Before the cloud gained popularity, people hooked up old Xboxes to their LAN connection and ran web servers from their house. Could it be possible that when gigabit Internet becomes widespread we will have less of a need for centralized cloud web hosting and can go back to hosting more of our own files and applications locally at our homes? Could PogoPlug-like devices and OwnCloud-like services become cheap consumer-level alternatives to the big centralized cloud services like Gmail, Facebook, Spotify, and YouTube?

A Sharing Economy for Bandwidth

Additionally, if we have so much more bandwidth than we need, could this be the innovation that leads to widespread mesh networks where people can open up a portion of their bandwidth to the public to allow strangers to be able to surf on gigabit wireless gigabit Wi-Fi without connecting to a centralized wireless provider? Users could make the decision to open their networks up for free, or to charge small micropayments for connections, similar to the way FreedomPop and Karma WiFi make money now?

Me? We.

I always like to push the idea of using technology for self-determination, of dismantling large monocultures in favor of decentralized networks of smaller, more empowered “little guys”. I know that with great power comes great responsibility, and that securing a home network is a hassle that many people don’t want to take on, but I wonder if even this can be improved with better home networking gear like the Google OnHub router. I may be revealing my ignorance of the limitations of gigabit internet, and I welcome anyone to correct me or think beyond where I’ve gone in the comments below.

Though I am sadly far from getting my own gigabit fiber connection (even here in high-tech Oakland), I hope that we can go beyond using our increasingly fat pipes for a bigger-faster version of what we already have, and explore how we can use it to shift the balance of power towards empowering our communities.

 

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