Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Submission to the Canadian Telecommunications Policy Review Panel from Wireless Nomad Co-op 

Here's my submission as VP of of Wireless Nomad Co-op:

Telecommunications Policy Review Panel Secretariat
Submission to the Canadian Telecommunications Policy Review Panel from Wireless Nomad Co-op

Honorable members of the Policy Review Panel,

1.  Wireless Nomad is a young telecommunications company that provides high-speed Internet with meshing WiFi wireless for businesses, homes, and neighborhoods across Ontario.  We incorporated in February of 2005, and have been steadily growing our network. Most recently, we have moved into new offices on King Street at the Toronto Business Development Center, and have been collaborating with the CRACIN project at the University of Toronto to build Toronto's first wireless mesh network in the neighborhood called The Annex.

2.  Our business model is simple: using DSL as backhaul, we install custom-built meshing WiFi access points on the premises of each of our subscribers, which provides each subscriber with a wired DSL connection, an 802.11g wireless local area network, and free WiFi 64kbps web access for all community members within range of one of our signals after they create a free account.  Each subscriber gets everything they would get with a standard DSL-based Internet service provider, but also gets high speed wireless roaming at all of our locations at no extra charge, and a way to share their wireless connection at no extra cost, with proper authentication, security, and legal agreements for all users.

3.  This model provides a flexible, bottom-up way to deploy an urban WiFi network with significant coverage, no extra cost or risk for any subscriber or free account user, and minimal up-front capital requirements.  Where sufficient density of subscribers is achieved, the cost of Internet access can be reduced by using secure mesh networking to share DSL backhaul amongst subscribers and eliminate unnecessary monthly costs for redundant DSL lines.

4.  Essential to this business model is our ability to obtain DSL circuits through a reseller at a reasonable cost with flexible quantities and the ability to add additional circuits as required. With today's technology, there is simply no better way to provide a backhaul for low-cost wireless networks in urban areas.

5.  The current regulatory regime which requires incumbent carriers to resell access to the lines which they developed as a protected monopoly serves new and innovative businesses well.  It has enabled us to create a totally new type of Internet service using a corporate structure and business model that is fundamentally different from that of other Internet service providers. Our subscribers own and control their own Internet connections, following the principles of user control, open access, and user input upon which the Internet itself was constructed. 

6.  The incredible success of the Internet as a global network is without doubt largely a result of this architecture of access, plurality and feedback. Wireless Nomad is using those same principles in the hopes of continuing the tradition of innovation, political engagement, technical collaboration and economic success that have been the hallmarks of the personal computer and telecommunications industries over the last decade.

7.  Eventually, we anticipate using high-speed long-range wireless to provide backhaul from Internet backbone connection points to neighborhoods and clusters all of our subscribers connected to one another by low-cost wireless mesh equipment.  There are several promising technologies which have, so far, failed to materialize in an effective or cost efficient form.  We do not anticipate that any wireless technology suitable for this purpose will be available in a usable form for approximately 5 years.  

8.  Until then, our ability to create a new network and community-based business model depends entirely upon our ability to obtain access to the lines of incumbent carriers.  We respectfully submit that the current regime that provides mandated access and resale be continued and possibly expanded where appropriate.  It has served as an effective means to correct for the obvious market failures induced by our legacy of telecommunications and broadcasting monopolies, has greatly reducing the cost of market entry for new businesses, and has provided choice for consumers and citizens in the Internet services marketplace.

9.  Thank you for your time and consideration.  We look forward to continued support by the CRTC, Industry Canada, and other bodies of the Canadian government for free and open markets for telecommunications services, where the consumer, the subscriber and the citizen benefit most of all.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Big Mother Bell is Watching 

There's been lots of talk the last couple of days about cell phones that let people locate users within a couple of meters based on GPS and cell phone signal triangulation. It's mostly been marketed to parents that want to be able to keep track of where their kids are (or at least where their kids cell phones are). Bell Canada has just announced such a service, called SeekAndFind.

Sure, this technology has many potential problems, including possible gross violations of individuals' privacy.however, the system that Bell Canada has created, SeekAndFind,incorporates a couple of very basic protections that make the system somewhat acceptable from a privacy point of view. First, if you turn your cell phone off, nobody can locate you at all. Of course, then you don't have any telephone communications, so that isn't a perfect solution. Second, the system only lets people on the cell phone users' white list locate that user. That means only preapproved family and friends can find you, not just any business(except for Bell Canada, of course). Third, the system provides the cell phone user with notification every time somebody locates them using the GPS and triangulation system. That meansyou know when you have been located and who located you.

Compare these features to what the RFID systems provide for the end-user: the RFID can't be switched off, anybody can access information, and there is no notification of access when somebody reads your RFID tag.

Of course, all these privacy protections are only as good as the amount of trust you place in Bell Canada to treat your personal information with respect, and the amount of trust you place in their security systems to prevent other people from abusing the location finding system. Parents will have to decide if knowing the location of their child's cell phone is worth the potential for intrusive marketing by telephone companies and their business partners, and the potential for an attack on the system that exposes the personal information and physical locations of subscribers. I wouldn't want to be the network guy in charge of that system ;-)

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Apple to add Trusted Computing to the new kernel? 

People working with early versions of the forthcoming Intel-based MacOS X operating system have discovered that Apple's new kernel makes use of Intel's Trusted Computing hardware. If this "feature" appears in a commercial, shipping version of Apple's OS, they'll lose me as a customer -- I've used Apple computers since 1979 and have a Mac tattooed on my right bicep, but this is a deal-breaker.

I travel in the kinds of circles where many people use GNU/Linux on their computers -- and not only use it, but actually call it GNU/Linux instead of just "Linux," in the fashion called for by Richard Stallman. Some of these people give me grief over the fact that I use Mac OS X instead of GNU/Linux on my Powerbook, because the MacOS is proprietary.

LINK: http://www.boingboing.net/2005/07/31/apple_to_add_trusted.html

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Apple Mail plug-ins and tools 

A repository of plug-ins and tools that extend the functionality of Apple's Mail.app (v. 2.0 and above). New plug-ins and tools are periodically notified on the site update notification list (see below).

LINK: http://www.tikouka.net/mailapp/

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