For A Better Internet
By air. By land. By sea… By balloon. By spaceship. By drone. By radio in a tree. There are tons of ways that people could be getting the Internet. When one thinks of Internet access, the basic picture of a Comcast, Charter, or AT&T modem in the corner of your living room or office space comes to mind. If you measure popularity of a company by how many people use them, then ISPs (Internet Service Providers) are extremely popular, with the three largest ISPs supplying over 60 million subscriptions. Obviously, so much of the world is connected the Internet, so if you are providing the Internet to a lot of people, you must be pretty popular right? Well, if you measure popularity by how much people actually like something, then the largest providers of Internet are extremely unpopular.
For many reading this, the unpopularity of America’s largest ISPs is not a surprise. According to the American Customer Satisfaction Index, cable and Internet service providers were actually the least-liked of any industry. To make matters worse, if you look at the data, year-over-year, ISPs are becoming increasingly more unpopular. Here’s the thing, as of now, there is little incentive for the largest ISPs to improve their services. For the majority Americans, they only have one choice – go with your community’s one provider or don’t have any Internet at all. Even when people are unhappy with their Internet provider, they continue to use their provider rather than cutting-off their access to the Internet.
How can this be? Out of all of the choices we have in other parts of our lives, why are the majority of Americans only stuck with one option to access the Internet? The good news is there are plenty of companies and groups who think this is a ridiculous scenario also. Those companies and organizations are providing consumers with multiple options for Internet access, making everybody better off.
Look at the case of Garrett County, Maryland, featured here in Motherboard. In 2011, more than 40% of residents did not have access to broadband Internet. Its rural location, smack in the middle of a group of mountains, made it difficult to lay the wire and cables necessary to access the Internet, not to mention maintenance if something breaks. The local community then started beaming signals from a local tower onto transmitters that can be on top of someone’s barn or in a tree.
Think of Puerto Rico. Google’s parent company, Alphabet, has been sending balloons to fly above the island at over 60,000 feet to beam Internet services down to people living on the island. This is especially important after Hurricane Maria destroyed many parts of Puerto Rico, leaving cell phone towers, Internet services, and more across the island unusable. Granted, these balloons providing the Internet are using AT&T’s service, but you get the idea. Here is another example of the Internet being provided through means other than the traditional method: laying wires in an underground network through a grid, thus creating a local monopoly.
Well okay, but these are examples of not necessarily Internet alternatives but rather people providing Internet in places where there is no Internet or at least low access. These are not cases where there is a viable alternative in a city or place where an ISP dominates. If I am in New York or Chicago or Sacramento, I am basically locked into using whomever our local industry giant is...right? Well, that’s not necessarily true.
Take a look at NewConnect, based in the Washington, DC metro area. NewConnect has created a great alternative to your local ISP giant. By beaming down Internet signals from large towers directly into dishes that sit on top of roofs, the company has no need to compete or attempt to access within the large grids - those underground grids owned by the large Internet service companies. “We have built a network in the sky and can provide Internet access to anyone without having to use the grids underground. We own our whole network in the sky, which makes us truly unaffected by what is in the ground. The current large Internet providers have not had very good standards and are not very popular because in most regions, people only have one choice for their Internet. NewConnect is a viable alternative to the institutions that currently own the Internet,” says David Wallis, Founder & CEO of NewConnect.
Sure, it’s great that there are other Internet providers, but does that actually translate to being better for the customers? “NewConnect was founded on the principle of providing a better alternative to the big companies that are providing the Internet. People look at the big companies as slow-moving aircraft carriers. We are the nimble quick speedboat that can deliver your service faster and can provide a faster, more reliable access. We provide faster installs, faster speeds, and a better overall experience to the user,” explains Vice President of Sales & Marketing Oscar Williams.
While companies like NewConnect try to break through an industry dominated by only a few, what other ways will emerge in the future for people to access the Internet - with everything basically living on the Internet now. Almost everything is on the Internet, and how dangerous is it to the world if only a few groups provide control the access? Will companies like NewConnect emerge and empower consumers, or will the largest players’ dominance only grow?