Connectivity basic need now
For me as travelling consultant, but also as a private citizen, having ubiquitous access to my on-line material is crucial. It is my premier gateway to my social networks as well as my work. When during the move last month we were thrown back to using a 52k dial-in phoneline for a week I felt both blind, deaf and mute. I’d say more than 80% of my working as well as social life uses internet-channels at some point.

So when I got wifi at home, I also put up an open access point for others to enjoy. So when I am in hotels and conference venues I am irritated by the ridiculous pricing schemes they have for using wifi services. So e-mail gets send to my phone. So I want free wifi, or flat fee wifi, worldwide. Early October last year I came across Martin Varsavsky’s call for people to help him get FON going, and of course I was already aware of what others are doing, and am privvy to some intriguing projects of some of my IFCCC colleagues over at F11.

Basically FON is a network of private wifi routers with modified software (only for some LinkSys routers at the moment), that you connect to your own broadband connection at home. Other members of the network, or paying guests, are given (pw protected) access to your wifi router as long as you’re not using your bandwith yourself. If you open up your router to FON, you get access to all FON routers everywhere. FON seems to have gotten support from Google, Skype and Sequioa, and also collaboration with the good guys from has been announced.

Information Landscape and Geographical Landscape
The latter is interesting to me. Because it connects the information landscape and the geographical landscape much more intimately. And I need that, and you need it too. I still have friends that give me strange looks when I describe my usage of internet tools. For them the internet is a one-way oriented information source, not a two-way place of exchange. For them cyberspace is different from their regular surroundings, and for me both form the world I live in. I simply can’t afford to treat them as seperate any longer, as I could in 1989 when I first got on-line on a daily basis.

Infoscape is Faster but Catalyst for Geoscape
In geographical space I meet people face to face, have drinks, which is great. But my mobility there is limited and time-constrained, slow, and resource-intensive. On the net, I don’t meet people face to face but through digitally mediated channels. But there my mobility is global and instantaneous, and the speed of interaction and change matches much more closely the speed I need to be able to do all the stuff I find relevant. Through the net I arrange the face to face meetings, through the net I decide where to spend my limited time and resources for geographical mobility. Which in the end actually increases my geographical mobility (I would not have started BlogWalk or visited geeky conferences abroad otherwise for instance, or for instance got to entertain Qumana’s Jon Husband from Canada at our home).

That also means that when I am on the road (the hard surfaced ones in the geographical landscape) I don’t want to be cut off from my information landscape in the net. I want to immediately share pictures, get and share info and opinions about the restaurant I am standing in front of wondering whether to have lunch there, be aware of the presence of others geographically nearby for possible chance encounters. In other words to be able to leave as well as pick up many traces that lead to emergent patterns relevant to the geographical spot I happen to be in.

Can we do more?
Opening up a wifi accespoint at my geographic location is a small step I can do to help bring the information landscape and geographical landscape closer together. Whether it’s FON or not is irrelevant. Letting others crash is another. Dutifully catalogueing every location you access the net from yet another.
Do you agree that combining the information landscape and geographical landscape is a necessity for you as it is for me? If so, what steps would you take, or have you taken to help combine the two more closely and permanently? Could we do more? What small steps are available to us as opportunities?

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7 reactions on “Ubiquitous Wifi, or Connecting the Information Landscape and the Geographical Landscape

  1. About the rates: today, T-Mobile asked me to fill in a customer satisfaction e-mail survey, asking if I had used any of the free Hotspot Wifi minutes they had sent me. No, I hadn’t – I never bump into hotspots, and if I do I find them ridiculously expensive; I wrote that the whole concept of finding a hotspot where you can pay for internet access reminds me of going to a public library to get a glimpse of that thing they call the Internet, and that I’m simply impatiently waiting for nation-covering wifi, which shouldn’t be that hard to build.
    Anyway, if you ever happen to be in the city of Nijmegen and need a wifi connection, there’s going to be one in my street – if I can get my preconfigured Linksys FON router (delivered today) up and running, that is. Both my ISP as well as FON don’t allow internet access before registering the router, ending up in not allowing each other to have the router connect to anything. But I hope to have that sorted out quite soon 🙂

  2. Did you hit a nerve! Nice blog, Ton. Frustration with old standards is building up and pushing open new windows of opportunity that really joins people in social cause to access economic models aligned with their beliefs and nature of engagement.
    Have a deeper discussion with Sam and Michael about F11. It’s similar to FON but dipping into the psyche of radical independents.

  3. I fully agree with you Ton.
    It was the same issue as telephones. First we had only at some places a telephone, second there were connections at home, third there were phoneboots and nowadays everybody is reachable.
    The question however is with what technology do you connect. Personally I think my PDA is to small, and my laptop is not constant switched on (and to large).
    But it is a nice start. Create our own network, by opening our access points.
    I will try it when I am in Enschede.

  4. Ton, this a great post. Summarizes so much that I have been trying to advocate here in Cleveland (land of the big expensive project). Sometimes it is difficult to show the impact of this technology to a bunch of industrial-heads. I will be quoting you and maybe stealing some content (with appropriate attribution via CC) 😉

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