P2P Foundation

The Foundation for Peer to Peer Alternatives

The First Square Mile, Our Neighborhood

  • Telecom is about services delivered over the last mile. Our connected neighborhood gives us the opportunity to discover the unanticipated. Instead of waiting at the end of the last mile we should look within our first square mile and see the possibilities, not just the choices offered.

Words have a way of reflecting and reinforcing our mental models. We think of telecommunications in terms of content being delivered (as with TV) so we often hear about the "last mile" or even the "first mile". We should think about connectivity within our neighborhoods -- the first square mile to contrast with the first mile traveled.

As Andy Lippman observed -- networking is something we do, not a service we buy and the Internet is not a destination but an idea. We use the physical infrastructure -- copper, fiber and radios (or, collectively, wires) to exchange packets just like we use local roads to visit friends. We don't think of local streets as merely onramps to the nearest highway.

Because we own the wires in our homes we can add another printer or computer without having to ask permission or pay a fee. This may be obvious but in the early days of home networking service providers expected to be paid for each device in our homes! Instead of buying "networking" we use a copper wire and each device takes its turn sending messages. The rate has gone from 10 megabits per second ten years ago to a billion bits per second today. The speed for wireless (Wi-Fi) has also improved though not quite as fast because they are subject to the limitations imposed by the FCC.

We can interconnect the networks in our neighborhood in the same way we use routers and switches to extend the networks within our homes. By using bundles of copper or fiber we can take advantage of the large capacity to exchanges messages at gigabit speeds. By interconnecting the wires just like we interconnect the roads the network continues to operate even if there are failures. Without the need to bill for each packet we can open up the access points to provide full wireless coverage (while still shielding the networks within our homes).

Bob Frankston is passionate about making local connectivity, not the Telcos, the center of our internet. Read the whole essay here.


And for a more general discussion of how networks work and why we might be better off without the Telecom companies as suppliers of connectivity, see


Demystifying Networking

by the same author.

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