Recently I bought What Would Google Do? written by Jeff Jarvis in audio book form on Audible and at one point he suggests running internet lines along with power lines to more effectively distribute the internet to all homes. Now while I think this is a great idea, it got my mind working and made me think about the negatives of that idea. The main issue is that if you’re running internet cable along with power cable then the power company can try and muscle in on the ISP business and charge just as outrageous prices as the ISP’s do now.
So what did I come up with? Well it’s still a work in progress but I’ll outline the basics of what I have right now. First a non-profit should be set up, lets call it Open Source Electric and Internet (OSEI), alright now the OSEI team should work with electrical engineers to to design small power stations that would serve a small community and work to find the most productive and cost effective model. Next the OSEI team should work with ISP engineers to design and plan deployment of a new network, at this stage the electrical engineers with work with the ISP engineers to figure out the best way to run electricity and internet down the same pipe with little to no interference.
But where does the power come from you ask? Every building connected to the network commercial and residential, public and private, will be required to have a subsidized solar panel array mounted to the roof. Every building would produce electricity and feed extra electricity back to the grid charging the power station’s batteries which would also be charged by the stations own large solar array.
Now as for the internet, each power station would also act as a hub with a large antenna that would connect to other power station hubs to create a large scale mesh network. The signal between these towers should be encrypted to secure user data, but the power station hub would also be running high speed internet lines to every building along with power lines thereby giving every building internet access. Also since the local OSEI power station would presumably power local street lights put WiFi repeaters on the street lights and hard wire every forth or fifth one as an access point to the OSEI line to ensure WiFi coverage in the public space.
Obviously you will need more power than the community can provide from time to time so what should you do? Well the answer came in the form of an idea I had years ago. I drive on US Route 30 for approximately 75 miles (each way), and what do I see for most the my drive? A large grass covered median between the East & West bound lanes. Now imagine if even half of that 75 miles had solar panels on it, think of the power it could produce. These panels could be broken into sections and could be linked to near by power stations that then feed the power to the network of local power stations that in turn distribute all the power as needed. There could also be WiFi repeaters connected to the panels to provide WiFi access to all the vehicles on the road, this WiFi would of course come from the nearby power station that the solar array is connected to.
But what about the DOT employees that are paid to mow that median? Well the OSEI could subcontract to the local DOT and have the otherwise out of work employees retrained to inspect and service the solar array on the highway and in the public spaces. Why subcontract instead of just hiring them? Well first of all OSEI wouldn’t have to pay all the employee costs (taxes, workers comp, health plans, retirement, ect.) instead they would pay a lump sum to the state who would then pay the workers they already have and the workers get to keep their government health plans and pensions.
Ok so now for the question on everyone’s mind, how the hell does this make money? Well first of all this is all run by a non-profit so the goal isn’t to make money, but there does need to be some profit to keep things running. First charge $0.03 per kWh for every one who consumes more electricity than they produce. Next charge a flat fee of $20.00 per month for unlimited internet access. Now what about those people who’s building produces more power than it consumes? Do they get money back every month? The simple answer is No. Part of the deal you make to have a subsidized solar array placed on your building , $0.03 per kWh charge (only if you use more than you produce), $20.00 per month unlimited internet access, and of course being part of the community, is that you give up the idea that the power company will pay you for producing power.
So there you have it, the very basic idea that I got from one sentence from Jeff Jarvis. Do you see flaws with my idea? Do you have a better suggestion? Let me know in the comments. Hell, got your own better idea? Write up your own idea and post the link in the comments, if I like it I’ll update this to include your name and the link. Remember Open Source is all about working together to build it better!