04 May 2005

First. Just to be First.

In an article in the New York Times Dartmouth College is moving all their phone, cable tv, and internet services to WIFI (wireless for the technobabble-impaired). There were several things I found funny about this starting with the hilarity of being able to see the words "wireless cable" in a legit newspaper article. Talk about your morons...er...oxymorons. They are trying to spin it so it looks like having wireless replacements for services they already receive is somehow going to release this deluge of creativity and capability. As if somehow the ability to sit "on a lawn, in a coffee shop or while relaxing in a dorm room" will inspire heretofore unheard of feats of scholarship! Exactly what is in this professors coffee? Not one idea in the entire article has any significant requirement for wireless connectivity. Instead it requires that the school, the professors, and the students simply take advantage of the capabilities they already have. The implication is that it's only worth providing all this new content and access to information if you can do it in a completely lazy fashion while laying out or having a manicure. For sheezy. What on earth does wireless have to do with allowing people to create content? What does wireless TV (hehe, that's a giggle-fest right there) have to do with increasing academic achievement? What is stop students from leaving MTV on during class under the guise of notetaking or research? Not only is this a laughable snow job, but ultimately must become a detrimental cost to the university. No matter what the techno-monkey is telling you to get you buy all those access points (1400 wireless, 24K wired huh?), the bandwidth and technology still costs real money. More content always equals more bandwidth. More bandwidth is more money. More usage is more components which is more money. More diversity of usage always equals more pilfering. More pilfering equals more maintainence, more maintaince is more money. It all boils down to money, greenbacks, dollars, cash. Sure, if bootstrap costs aren't accounted for it appears to costs less to maintain the same capability. It might even appear cost less to grow in the short-term. But growth without cost always grows faster than expected. In almost every other instance of growth without cost the growth is always exponential (think Napster, Kazaa, CD piracy, etc). It stands to reason that exponential growth incurs an signicant cost. Which explains why the ISPs get so ticked off about P2P file sharing. To me a big part of the core issue is about setting unrealistic expectations. Wireless does not equal free. If you set expectations for this free-for-all access to media, services, and content then even as the demand increases the expectations do not. Which means instead of 50 people today, tomorrow you have 5 thousand people all expecting the same access, the same services, at the same cost. Unfortunately it is never the same cost. In no interpretation of reality does it cost the same to serve 50 or 5 thousand, with or without wires. But the ambiguity and delayed effect of growth cost is what is allowing profiteers to sell solutions like this to our clueless collegiate friends. Shame on them.

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