Bringing Internet to the Masses

This post on RedKemp got me to thinking about my oft proposed plan to bring internet to the masses in the countryside. The Chinese countryside is often sort of different from what you have in the US. While there are the same miles and miles of open farm land, in China, due to its collective farm history, when you do finally come across houses, they are usually grouped together, instead of like in the US where they are spread far apart.

Seeing this got me to thinking, more and more people in the rural "suburbs" of big cities, in China's 9th tier cities, and in the countryside are purchasing computers, but very few are able to afford home internet access. So my thought is, why doesn't the government (or an NGO) or even just the people that live there step in and start doing more to provide wireless internet? These buildings usually aren't very large, a few routers would be enough to service an entire building and would be able to give them all in home internet acess for around RMB700 or less plus internet fees of around RMB100 or so a month (split however many ways). Internet exists in these places, as is obvious through the proliferation of internet cafes, so the infastructure seems to be there. It would take some money to buy the routers and some wireless cards, if necessary, but it seems like an excellent idea. I would stop worrying about making Beijing wireless and start focusing on this plan.

I always thought there were a number of problems with this. The biggest is obviouslly IP registration, if one router has the same IP but 10 people using it, it would make it harder to track what each user is doing. Also, and this is no small issue, China Mobile would not be too happy about the loss of income. However, as mentioned above (kind of) there has been some discussions about Beijing going wireless. It makes no sense to eat the fees in a major city like Beijing where many people can afford the internet and still charge full price in rural places where the majority of people can't afford the internet.

I'm far from a tech person, so I'm sure there are a number of problems that I haven't thought about (feel free to inform me of them by comment or email), but I think this could really work as a way to bring the internet to far more people in China.

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