Is Mobile the Future of the Internet?

I already know that Patrick Pho thinks that the wave of the future is held in the palm of our hand, but I came across this article on HuffPo by the British Ambassador to the U.S. that, while mostly skimmable (sorry, Sir Peter: TL;DR) had this little gem towards the end:

Just when governments are – admirably – looking to invest in high-speed broadband so that no-one is left behind by the digital revolution, here are these twenty-something CEOs saying it might be better to skip fibre optics altogether and go straight to mobile. At General Assembly, one young inventor told me how his $300 a month membership and rented desk, and the opportunity to bounce ideas off others with similar innovative ideas, had allowed him to create a box of tricks which will modernize and accelerate computer systems so effectively that hard-up governments and hospitals will no longer have to throw out their obsolete equipment every 4 years. I asked whether the invention would make money. He seemed surprised by the question and simply replied: ‘it’s going to change the world.’

OK. First things first: he’s right, governments (and private companies) are¬†looking to expand broadband so that everyone can have access to it. While the digital divide has shrunk considerably, it still holds true that lower-income Americans get online less than the well-off, partly because many low-income households do not have a computer with high-speed internet. A slightly different problem is that there are willing customers in far-flung areas who would pay for broadband but the network hasn’t expanded to their area.

The problem is that building out a superfast wired network is expensive. Companies like Verizon who rolled out FiOS in select markets are choosing wireless instead. Putting up a tower is much cheaper than running wires to every house, and an increasing number of Americans are accessing the internet via their phone, especially minorities.

Mobile networks may indeed be the answer, but I think it’s more likely that it’ll be a combination of wired and wireless networks that eventually cover the globe. It’s cost-prohibitive to run fiber optic cables to every mountain shack (although mine will have it!), but you don’t have to be cut off anymore if you have a mobile device. If high-speed internet is important to you or your job, you may need to move somewhere that has the network you need, just like many people have to move to where the work is.

On another note, thank goodness people are thinking about how to update our freaking governments and hospitals. I can’t think of a better area to invest your time, energy and ideas. They need it.

What do you think? Is mobile the future of the internet?

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