Nokia has one of the best products around for building that future: Nokia Rooftop. It’s tailor made for community networks, with good management features and exactly the kind of mesh routing support that Negroponte talks about.
Sadly, though, just five days before the Negroponte article hit, the BBC was reporting that Nokia had come out with this statement: “anyone using bandwidth without the permission of the person paying for it is simply stealing.”
I can see their point. But for Negroponte’s vision to work—and I sincerely hope it does—the granting of permission has to be easy and automatic. Negroponte doesn’t mind anyone accessing his wireless access point, and he certainly doesn’t want them pestering him to ask for permission. But right now there’s no way, short of knocking on the door and asking, to find out whether you’re allowed to use an access point or not.
Instead of attaching the “criminal” label to a lot of people who mean no harm, Nokia should instead be active in efforts to enhance the security of wireless access points, with the aim of making publicly-accessible lily pads a legal reality, while giving those who want to restrict their networks easier ways to do so.
In the process, they would help build the market for one of their best products.