The term, the Last Mile, doesn’t refer to a death march. It refers to the point where a consumer purchases access to the internet through a service provider. AT & T and Comcast are two of the best known providers and they buy their air wave access from the federal government. The public, in turn, pays for that access on the retail market and the point at which they physically plug into the system is called a Backbone. Unfortunately, plugging into the Backbone can be expensive for the poor and people living in third world countries, so some folks have been working on an entirely new communications system called a Mesh. Meshes are mini systems that by-pass the Backbone and can be tied together, like legos, to create larger systems. Occupy Wall Street in New York City created a Mesh to coordinate their activities during the demonstrations. The system has the advantage of being autonomous, which means it can’t arbitrarily be shut off. (“My Own Private Internet,” by Clive Thompson, Mother Jones, Sept./Oct, 2013 pgs. 30-33)
The New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute is taking this concept further. It’s creating Commotion: internet in a suitcase. Commotion allows for quick, portable deployment of the Mesh. So far Meshes have remained small but theoretically, one could be built to cover the globe. The United States is working with the Institute, hoping to bring this cheaper technology to underdeveloped countries and to spread freedom of speech abroad. (Ibid pg. 33)
Governments that want to control the flow of information may be concerned about developments like the Mesh and Commotion as it will be harder to track the on-line activities of their citizens. That, in itself, is progress for personal freedom. Happily, history has shown that spirited thinkers have always existed who work to set humanity free.
(Internet backbone courtesy of modernsurvivalblog.com)