Sometime in the next 30 days, the telecoms firms of the world will have reached a new milestone - three billion subscribers. About ten percent of that number are customers who have multiple accounts, but - somewhere in the middle of 2008, half of humanity will own a mobile handset. In just a decade's time, we'll have gone from half the world never having made a telephone call to half the world owning a phone.
Unexpected. Unprecedented. The implications are staggering. What is certainly clear is that ubiquitous networked communication is an industrial inevitability. Network bandwidth can, and should be free. If this disturbs you, or doesn't make sense, consider that the past century of communications technology can be viewed in meta-historical terms as a misguided monopolistic sidetrack. At Wardenclyffe in 1901, Nicola Tesla began experimenting with the first wave of what we now consider modern cellphone communication. Except that Tesla's ideas went much further than just telegraphy - he wanted to distribute electrical power through such networks, a global source of free energy. Tesla saw free electricity and networked communications as a means of furthering world peace. Unfortunately, this clashed with the goals of industrial civilization, and Tesla was driven to financial and personal ruin by the refusal of government and big business interests to co-operate.