I don’t pay for internet access. I count myself among the lucky few in the nation that have a free wireless connection from the comfort of home.
If you’re having visions of me sitting at a desk or in a comfy chair, let me squash them now. My trade-off for free net access? I have to sit in my kitchen, perched on a stool in front of the microwave, a position not ergonomically correct in the least. On top of that, the connection is intermittent, and sometimes I have to walk a block into town to send an email. This is fine until it starts to rain, and then, well… things get a little soggy.
Comfortable? Not really. Convenient? No.
But! I, unlike most people around the world, have free Internet access.
The town of Carrboro, where I reside, is one of the few municipalities in the country that currently offers visitors and residents access to the web for free, but this trend is growing and becoming intelligent as well. The town of Corpus Christi, Texas not only provides free wi-fi to its residents, but also collects utility meter information in this way.
These intelligent networks will become even more important as technology continues to connect the entirety of the world in the coming decades, with the hope of fueling a global conversation that includes every nation, all the while driving home the growing importance of the hyperlocal economy. This idea of the hyperlocal is already beginning to emerge, as demonstrated by the overwhelming popularity of sites like Craigslist, which connects people to others in their geographic locality.
I do, of course, relinquish some of my privacy rights by using free public wi-fi, which may be a compromise that some are unwilling to make. Universal access, however, fulfills the holistic and most basic principle of the web: that of a collection of information that is easily accessible while providing a forum for conversation and connectivity, a right everyone deserves in this digital age.
The town of Carrboro could be tracking all the sites I visit from my microwave station. But I’ll take my chances.
Submitted by Linda Misiura, a student in Elon University’s Interactive Media Master’s Program.