Fellow TidBITS contributor (ok, ok, I overstate my contribution) Glenn Fleishmann takes a hardnosed look at the enticing possibility of the unwired ISP Clearwire in the Seattle market. I’m at the thin, frayed end of DSL and really can’t consider cable, as I host in-house, a practice both technically and TOSly unadvisable under cable. Their outbound speed may be weak, but it would be hard to get weaker then that which I currently pay for on not one but TWO DSL lines.
Sadly, Glenn neglects to examine the Clearwire TOS. Personally, as Clearwire has sprung from the loins of cellular visionary Craig McCaw (did i get that right? I suck at the whole capitalist sycophancy thing. I’m working on it, OK?) I do not expect the TOS to actively permit any sort of publicly-oriented upstream content delivery, or if it they do, the TOS will include a sufferance clause permitting the proprietor to choke any commercial or political discourse that troubles the business model at whim.
The only features in these scenarios I have not yet actually experienced in real life with nothing fancier than conventional 80211.b hardware and 256k ethernet is easy and secure administrative access to my IP space and high-caliber upstream speeds. But because upstream broadband has failed to offer any speed improvement to the majority of postential customers, competition in the low end of the market has been purely price-based, and therefore 256k wireless or wired networking is essentially free with any given set of computers.
The competitive key to beating cable or DSL, then, is fat outbound pipes. Come to me with an unrestricted hosting plan that gives me upstream of as little as 1k, and you have my $60 a month, money i am already spending for two separate DSL lines with a choke of 256k on each. The trick? The provide must eschew content and activity controls, precisely as a phone provider does.
I won’t hold my breath – there are technical hurdles for all three bandwidth-provisioning strategies that limit upstream bandwidth; content managers are for the moment highly engaged in a fight to limit the market; and of course, if you’re already filthy rich, the laws simply do not apply.
Still, I’d think that $60 per month across a 20% of the extant market might well be enough dough to attract a would-be Medici or Borgia to the sinking island. The question would then be rather simpler: Shall I dine at the table of the Borgia?