Rants and musings of Paul Scott
Paul Scott on 2010-07-05 08:00:21 Comments (1) Tweet thisBroadband for all?
Finland has been in the news again with their broadband as a legal right initiative, where each and every single person has a legal right to at least 1mbps broadband internet. This is all fine for a highly developed country and I congratulate the Finnish people and government on making it so. The next question on almost everybody's lips though, is "What about us?". Indeed, what about South Africa?
I wrote an article about this last year, but failed to find it in my backup archives after a quick look at where I thought it was, so I am going to paraphrase that text here. Thanks to @yossihasson for reminding me of this stuff!
The main issue that we have in South Africa is that there is not really enough internal connectivity. Yes, sure, people who can afford it can get local only ADSL lines etc, but the majority of folks still have no internal connectivity at all (or external for that matter). The key to stimulating growth (economic as well as technological) is to foster greater communication infrastructures and connectivity to other South Africans. Think about it.
International connectivity is great for people that do business overseas, and for other folks in the tech industry that collaborate with people in different timezones, but for the average South African? They really don't need that very much. Facebook and Google are popular, but are mainly used to communicate with friends inside the country anyway!
What I propose for South Africa is to provide free local networking, local being South Africa. If everyone could at least talk to everyone else, imagine the business opportunities!
Now, most of you will be shaking your head by now and saying "Well who will pay for this?" The answer to that question is NOT government/councils/rich folks/big companies etc. It is the entrepeneur. If someone can be taken through basic GNU/linux system admin and provided with a small loan to buy a server, some cabling and some cheap devices to provide a basic network in an area, the collective can use a high bandwidth backhaul to the next server. Entrepeneurs could easily pay for this kind of infrastructure quickly by providing value added services on their network (like buying airtime, advertising etc) as well as providing people with a means to connect to the network.
I am not talking here about expensive mobile phones or desktop computers, I am talking about enabling your current television set with a wireless keyboard and mouse and a small device to provide the network (they exist, I just forget the name for now). This will enable a household to interact with local SA businesses, other people, services etc. Those people can also provide services that they can do to others. This will stimulate the economy locally, which will stimulate on a national basis.
eGov services and VoIP can also be provided to these devices, as well as full HD tv and video on demand. Seeing some opportunity yet?
Once people are working efficiently, they may in fact opt to purchase international bandwidth, which is OK. That is their choice. The main thing here is that you don't need laws to do this, you need banks to understand that a few small loans of approx R30k or so can change the country. Telkom and other cable providers will also need to come to play for the backhauls, but that infrastructure is now mostly in place. Again, the long term benefits to them of doing this is quite obvious!
So do we need 1mbps bandwidth for all? No, these devices provide on average 10GBps between each other and on a fiber based backhaul that can be maintained throughout the country. On the amount of money that I can make providing services over that network or saving on my landbased phone calls or my satellite based TV I can easily buy 1 or even 4mbps international connections!
We can make this happen, it is simple and useful.