Will your kids pay for connectivity?

oh kids today —(Photo by Rali: https://goo.gl/y1y6Mm)

Recently I had a discussion with a friend who runs the Digital Transformation team at Cognizant discussing how data and connectivity infrastructure will be handled in the future. He remarked that our kids would not have to pay for data.

Could the days of paying for connectivity, both user and device, be over in the next decade?

Full discussion on the weekly Raft podcast.

The conversation was short and provocative. We have wifi at airports that is sponsored by companies through advertising. We have wifi at restaurants and cafes, often provided free, or provided through Facebook (ex: “Like our page and get connected”), and other times through advertising (ex: Starbucks ad as you sign in).

Recently you’ve had cities and countries begin to roll out IoT networks. Right now the infrastructure is provided by private companies, which would charge a fee for usage.

For most developed markets, there are two connectivity fees we regularly pay. Our home internet, fed in through physical landline and our cell phone data package. Some companies, such as AT&T, provide bundled services that merge them into a single bill, alleviating potential subscription fatigue from users. As wireless infrastructure gets better (4G / 5G) and landline options perhaps cease to be an option, we will be able to move to a single payment for our connectivity services. This could be for our phones (ha, no one wants those anyway), TV’s, washing machine, thermostat, or baby camera. In my previous writing I’ve mentioned that larger companies who provide IoT platforms should look at bundles for both connectivity services as well as devices. In a decade we can expect wifi to fade away for stronger wireless connectivity offered in 4/5G solutions. In Helsinki you can have a 4G mifi device power both your home or on-the-go connectivity. Is this a glimpse into the future?

Telco’s and companies who are providing our connectivity are often pressing back against net neutrality discussions. I need to wonder how this is in danger as they begin to both provide the service and the infrastructure, taking the latter out of the Governments hand. Is loss of net neutrality a bad thing? We already pay for faster speeds. Will we pay addition costs for heavy bandwidth services? Will some people be able to get basic connectivity for free? Subsidized by those who pay for the high end model?

While I do dream of a future where connectivity is provided for free through our airspace this seems less likely as private companies begin to own both the infrastructure and service in our homes.

The only method to offset this is utilizing an advertising model to pay for the infrastructure and service (e.g. having ING Bank banners around our connectivity points). However, this appears to still be a pipe dream for companies who are pushed into YOY financial growth and are not here to make cities connectivity flourish, but rather make their shareholders flourish. Not to mention connectivity points that are open promoted with advertising often offer the worst of all worlds in terms of speed and privacy.

If we want, expect, or move to free connectivity models in the next decade or beyond, I only see this happening by Government intervention and taking the burden of providing the infrastructure. There would also need to be new legislation. The other option is perhaps a world more clogged with advertising.

The discussion continues on episode 7 of Let’s Fix Things.