Last OneWebDay – Sep 22 2011 – ISOC-NY hosted the Bob Frankston talk: Infrastructure commons – the future of connectivity in which he laid out the “Frankston Doctrine” – the heretical view that communities should build and operate their own communications infrastructure, entirely dispensing with telcos and usage-based billing. Long a lone voice in the wilderness, Frankston’s ideas are now beginning to get some love. On Valentine’s Day – Feb 14 2012 – OneWebDay founder Susan Crawford used her Bloomberg column The Case for Publicly Owned Internet Service to rail against State laws that prohibit municipal broadband initiatives.
Now, on Feb 25 2012, comes a searing GigaOM opinion piece from UK analyst Martin Geddes titled It’s the end of the line for telco .
The telecom industry has reached its peak. This is it. Look around you. Whatever you are doing in telecom, however you are making money in the field, it isn’t going to get better than this. This industry has acquired its maximum share of the economy. We are the digital railroad business at the height of the railroad barons. The only way now is down. We’ll see maybe one or two more mini-booms, a few more troughs, but the long-term trend has just gone into reverse.
Home networks don’t need service providers. You just buy a box and plug it in. Street-level networks don’t either — you can build a simple resilient mesh. Nor do town networks that join the kids with their school. We fundamentally don’t need communications service providers to manage data transmission. As long as we have a means to fund infrastructure, just as we manage with roads, we can do it for ourselves.
This is the beginning of the end of the Information Superrailroad, where all the bits are scarce and billable. Broadband ISP service is a branch line to nowhere.
Unlicensed wireless is the automobile, and local open fibers are the roads. It doesn’t carry very much very far right now, but it will. And with it, the fate of the telecom industry as constituted today is sealed. Like with the railroads, telcos will carry ever more traffic, and will protect themselves with political power. But their heyday is over, and a new disruptive model has emerged.
Bob Frankston will speak at the ISOC-DC event Connecting Everyone! Mesh Networks, Public Internet and the Drive Towards Universal Access on March 1 2012. There will be a webcast.