August 5, 2014
Internet speeds have increased significantly since Apple’s first iPhone was released in 2007. What hasn’t changed is how we connect to the Internet with our mobile devices. We either use data from our cellular provider, or connect to our home network. We may also occasionally use the free Wi-Fi connection from Starbucks or our local library. The late Apple CEO Steve Jobs once hoped to develop another way to connect to the Internet, according to Re/Code’s Walter Mossberg. Jobs’ idea was to convince folks to share their bandwidth via guest networks. That way, “a smartphone user could walk around, moving from one Wi-Fi hotspot to another, without logging in — much like people using cellular data move from one cell tower to another.” Mossberg recalls:
Jobs said he understood the need for security, but he was determined to figure out a way to make free, safe, Wi-Fi sharing from homes and small local businesses not only possible, but common. He even told me that he planned to get other companies involved, in a sort of consortium, to make this happen.A consortium was never developed, of course. Guest networks do exist, however, although not on the scale Jobs’ first envisioned. Apple’s Airport routers have “Enable Guest Network” capabilities. Fon also lets its members share Wi-Fi bandwidth. Comcast has a similar plan for its customers. Mossberg believes "It’s time the big tech companies solved this problem, so that Wi-Fi sharing and roaming become a reality.” I would agree, although I don't expect it to happen anytime soon. Technology companies would have to agree to provide the resources to make this happen. Also, the set-up process would have to be extremely simple for the end-user. Finally, there's the issue of security. There is no way I'd want to share my data with strangers unless I was reasonably assured that hacking could be kept to the minimum. What say you? Should free home Wi-Fi sharing become the norm?