Operating under the mission statement of “the Internet is a right, not a privilege,” Niklas Zennstrom, one of the co-founders of Skype, has introduced an idea of bringing free broadband services to the United States, one that would be powered LightSquared, a wholesale wireless broadband network carrier.
Zennstrom is now part of FreedomPop, the group partnering with LightSquared to bring this huge undertaking to life. Apparently, the services will be offered by the FreedomPop company and the infrastructure necessary to support such a massive service will be provided by LightSquared’s existing wireless network. Currently, LightSquared is in the process of rolling out a 4G-LTE network, and it’s expected to be available later in 2012.
While the infrastructure and the other details concerning a nationwide broadband network are still in the gestation stage, the technical details are not the driving force behind this service. The goals of the partnership is. Simply put, FreedomPop thinks all Americans should have access to high-speed Internet connections, and instead of talking about it, they are working to make such a dream a reality. Some press release quotes from both companies indicate as much:
“The Internet is a right, not a privilege,” said Matt Ingrid, COO of FreedomPop. “With the economic efficiencies delivered by LightSquared’s wholesale business model, we can achieve our objective to deliver flexible high-speed wireless access to anyone at a fraction of the cost and inconvenience seen in today’s market.”
“FreedomPop represents the kind of disruptive service model that LightSquared is enabling, and shares our belief that broadband access is a right for everyone,” said Sanjiv Ahuja, chairman and chief executive officer of LightSquared. “Our nationwide network will allow FreedomPop to make a profound impact by delivering affordable high-speed wireless access to underserved communities across the country.”
The question is, would the traditional powers-that-be in the Internet service provision industry allow such a service to operate? Would AT&T/Verizon/Comcast/Time-Warner be open to a competitor that offers a free version of a service the previous companies charge a premium for? Comcast wasn’t too pleased when Google discussed bringing its free fiber optic network to Ann Arbor, Michigan, so it’s doubtful they would welcome the LightSquared/FreedomPop partnership with open arms, either.
Is a broadband connection to the Internet a human right or a privilege? What about running water and electricity? While it may be a stretch to compare these services, some clearly believe a high speed Internet connection is as much a human right as clean water.
Another point to consider is how would the traditional ISPs react if FreedomPop’s vision become reality? What if they actually build the infrastructure capable of supporting such a potentially huge amount of users? Would that mean companies like the aforementioned ISPs be willing to match FreedomPop’s offer, or at least improve upon their “last mile” infrastructure so they can offer increased speeds that people would consider paying for?