Verizon’s Future Looks Like FairPoint’s

Like many people in northern New England, I carry a grudge against Verizon, and not just because my cell phone service has gotten worse since its takeover of Unicel. Nope. We all remember the promises of fiber-optic cable to our homes. Never happened, never will (until we choose to do it ourselves.)

In fact, Verizon shrewdly opted instead to dump its landline business to FairPoint Communications, for top dollar at the height of the stock market. Now FairPoint has fulfilled the prophesies of so many observers and proven itself completely incapable of running its business. (Also revealed: the incompetence of the regulators in three states who approved the deal.)

It’s going to be a long time before anyone goes the extra mile to run about a hundred bucks’ worth of broadband wire to my house. I mean that literally, because Comcast literally stopped wiring for cable less than a mile from my house.

So it’s with some schadenfruede that I read Bob Tedeschi’s article on smart-phone technologies that are within two years of hitting the market. For those who read the article to the end, here’s the payoff:

Dr. Lippman, of MIT, and Dr. Winarsky, of SRI, said they could envision a not-so-distant generation of smartphones communicating more intensively with others nearby via Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.

Smartphone apps could, for instance, recognize when a doctor is in the building, and alert him if another person nearby had dialed 911. Or, your phone might capture images from a video camera around the corner from a subway station.

This idea, labeled “the third cloud” by David P. Reed of MIT, underscores the most profound change for smartphones currently coming to the market — namely, that they need not communicate with the carrier at all.

“Carriers used to control everything, and now the tables have utterly turned,” Dr. Lippman said. “That’s what’ll make the future so interesting.”

This obviously won’t matter much in rural areas like ours, but it will be huge in the big cities that have the population densities to make this happen on the required scale. Think of it: disintermediation of the carriers. They go away, like travel agents. How awesome would that be?

What do we do in the areas that still need broadband? Cooperatives would work, if backed by revenue-anticipating bonds sponsored by state agencies. A variation of this approach, tapping massive public works spending at the federal level, is underway in Vermont. Let’s go, New Hampshire! And good riddance to the empty shirts at Comcast and Verizon.

Read more: Phone Smart – What Your Phone Might Do for You Two Years From Now