I had an interesting discussion with a friend recently. We were talking about the fact that there really is almost no need for telecom companies any more.
Originally, telephones had to go through a large, centralized switch to connect one phone to another and to connect to long distance trunk lines that tied different cities together. Hence, there once was a requirement for a telecom company, both for local telephone service and for “long distance” service. Already, the need for any distinction between long distance and local has gone away. After all, my phone service now makes no distinction between calling someone in the same city, or someone in 60 countries worldwide.
But now, it is technologically reasonable to replace the centralized switches of our telecom system with “mesh nets”, where calls are forwarded through other nearby phones.
Likewise, there is absolutely no need for the internet to have a “backbone”. In fact, having centralized points for routing internet traffic creates points of failure, and is what makes it easy to spy on us. It is also the only reason why we have arguments about “net neutrality” — the backbone gives power to internet telecoms that makes it possible for them to discriminate against internet traffic.
What would be preferable to having a centralized backbone is to have lots and lots of local connections between ISPs. That would be far more robust, more secure, and harder to game for profit.
A side point is that maybe we should not be fighting for net neutrality rules. After all, if the telcos are able to freely destroy net neutrality and completely screw up the internet, maybe that will give incentive to people to create a new, better, decentralized internet that is not dependent on the telcos.
I am of two minds about this, but it is interesting to think about. Comments? Opinions?