From September 2005 to June 2006 a team of thirteen scholars at the The University of Southern California's Annenberg Center for Communication explored how new and maturing networking technologies are transforming the way in which we interact with content, media sources, other individuals and groups, and the world that surrounds us.
This site documents the process and the results.
My argument against a headlong embrace of wireless as a solution to the last mile problem is that there has always been a dialectic between wireless and wired (e.g. optical telegraph vs. wire telegraph, telephone vs. radio, coaxial cable vs. microwave, satellite vs. fiber). In most of these cases, the flexibility of wireless solutions has been counteracted by the greater bandwidth of wired solutions. So even though wireless seems like a way of giving the Internet to those who live in poor, under-served areas and even though it holds the potential of setting us free of the grips of network pipes, I have maintained that faster connections will be the envy of those on wireless. A recent online discussion tackles this issue. Om Malik suggests that the next generation of broadband will do little for the user experience, but he warns that slow upload speeds are an issue. But make sure you read the comments too. One commentator concludes Malik is shortsighted in not considering the attractiveness of real-time HD video streaming. Another recalls a study by McDonnell Douglas Health Systems in 80s that showed that improving terminal response to sub-second levels resulted in significant improvements in productivity. A third mentions that web based applications will benefit from sub-second time while a fourth states faster broadband and improved latency is necessary for telecommuting.
At Ars Technica, Jeremy Reimer throws in his two cents as well. He sees the new speeds as being part of a two-tier Internet in which network neutrality comes to an end and service providers begin to serve up their high-bandwidth, high-speed content faster than content from other sources. Finally, a discussion on Slashdot weighs the pros and cons.
So what's my conclusion to this? Well, wireless will be where 56k dialup was during the dot.com boom. A lot of people will think they're ok with it, but they'll be missing out on the faster experience of next generation broadband. Those people will likely have older computers (cue the image of a beige PC with a PeoplePC logo and a 17“ CRT) and wouldn't necessarily be able to use the next generation of content anyway. But that isn't entirely true. A lot of people will stay on first generation broadband simply because they already have it and since wireless simply isn't as stable as a wired connection (anyone who disagrees is welcome to come to my apartment on an evening when the entire building is chattering on their cordless phones while heating yesterday's leftovers from Mandarette in the microwave).
The comments about telecommuting are important. When the telecoms wake up to this, watch for hand-holding and support for VPN, in tandem with some of the big players in that field. With a safe, secure, VPN running that your IT department can feel happy about, and with sub-second response time from your office server as well as video and audio messaging back and forth to your workplace (upload speeds need to increase for these to be more solid) coupled with traffic in our cities getting worse and worse, areas that the young digerati live in will rise in value while areas unserved by broadband 2.0 will stagnate.