Wi-Fi For The Masses

I’ve been working on a story about Wi-Fi for the masses in Asia (it will be appearing in this week’s Far Eastern Economic Review; I’ll post a snippet when it comes online), looking at how Wi-Fi is opening up all sorts of opportunities to leap over the traditional problems of the rural and urban poor in this part of the world: A lack of basic infrastructure, such as roads and phone lines. It’s a great topic with some inspring characters turning talk into action.

As a follow-up, here’s an interesting piece from Robert X. Cringely, who last week pointed out that with an all-in-one router costing about $70 you could become your neighbourhood’s own wireless ISP. This week Robert chronicles (via Applied Abstractions) the things that have happened since he wrote the piece. Those include at least one guy who has, since the article apppeared, followed Robert’s advice and is running an ISP in San Francisco. Good stuff, but it was just the start.

Moments later,” Robert goes on,  ”the Chinese called, and that’s when it became clear to me that this wireless stuff is simply ideal for a high-density, low-income urban culture like that found in China. Throw a wireless router in every Chinese Internet café and you’d bring phone service and Internet to hundreds of thousands of people practically overnight. Add a little mesh networking as described last week, and the number of people served could be increased by an order of magnitude.”

Indeed. There’s a lot of people out there who don’t have computers and don’t have Internet connections. Wi-Fi is the best news for them in years.