Like freedom of the press, ultimately, net neutrality is going to be reserved for those who own one.

Well, we’re getting closer.

Consider the case of cell/mobile phones.  The device is basically useless for communications, unless you have service through a provider.  They have the cell towers, and link through to the public telephone network.  You have to pay them, and they get to manage how calls are made.

(Just as a side issue, the more people who are subscribers in a given location, the worse chance you have of getting to make a call.  You get to be a victim of their [the telco’s] success.)

Now, consider.  Cell phones are getting smarter all the time.  Already they can connect with (and via) wifi.  And we can build applications for them.  Recently I didn’t have Internet access for my laptop, and someone with an Android phone was able to set up a wireless access point for me, through his phone, and give me that connection.

OK, lets extend the routing a bit.  We’ve developed a lot of good routing protocols from building the Internet.  Let’s extend those to handle hops from phone to phone.  And, using voice over IP, and a few other technologies, pretty soon we can make calls without hitting a cell tower.

(And, bearing in mind technologies such as CDMA2000, note that, in opposition to the cell tower contention model, the *more* cell phones we put into an area under this model, the *better* our coverage and bandwidth is going to be.  The closer the devices are to each other, the faster [more bandwidth] they can talk to each other.)

Latency may be a problem.  Security (in terms of confidentiality) will definitely need to be addressed.  Long distance transmission will be a concern (although it’s rather amazing how many ideas start popping up as soon as those issues are raised).

Basically, any form of communication will follow from the same model.  With a bunch of cell phones where your only cost is the initial cost of the phone itself (no subscription, no usage cost, no long distance charges) it won’t take long for landline phones to be phased out.  Data communications, for any “store and forward” model (basically, anything other than streaming) will be even more efficient.  Maybe there will still be a place for the telcos: if you want faster service for real time streaming of content.  Of course, they’d have to be willing to set the price point for unlimited data low enough to be attractive …

However, we would now seem to be nearer the end than the beginning.  It’s mostly a matter of which platform to start with.  Google has demonstrated that it *can* term off applications, but, in this case, why should it?  Apple might want to jump in on the ground floor, but they turn off a lot more apps, and, in any case, it probably isn’t best to start with a phone where you have to hold your tongue (or your hand) just right to get it to work.

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Researcher, author, communications guy, teacher, security maven, management consultant, and general loudmouth Rob Slade. Also http://twitter.com/rslade