10 March 2014

Wired Business: “Facebook Drones to Battle Google Balloons in the War of Airborne Internet”

From a logistics standpoint, the sky seems like much more efficient, scalable way to build connectivity. Instead of the intensive, intrusive labor of digging trenches and laying pipes, just send more drones up in the air to bring more homes online. If the drones can really stay aloft the way Titan says they can, there’s way more space available in the sky than there is down below.

As they become the world’s largest companies, all the internet giants will likely want to control as much of the infrastructure between themselves and their users as possible. For Larry Page or Mark Zuckerberg, the idea of depending in any way on old-school outfits like Verizon or Comcast must grate. For both, taking to the skies must seem an especially gratifying way to leave such earthbound adversaries behind.

Marcus Wohlsen

While in theory this sounds like a clean, futuristic solution to spread Internet access everywhere around the planet, I would be worried about the safety of commercial flights; while the drones may fly out of the way in optimal circumstances, faulty ones will fall uncontrolled out of the sky, potentially disrupting airplane flight paths. The more drones airborne, the more chances one will crash into an airplane with disastrous consequences. And even if the systems are full-proof, who’s to say Facebook and Google won’t use their flying access points to censor each-other – or anyone else who doesn’t play by their rules?

On the same subject, this article has an even more critical angle, based on real facts on the ground:

Essentially, these companies are trying to reap the reward of encouraging more people to use their services, such as WhatsApp, without doing the messy work that carriers and handset makers such as Nokia and Samsung do; that is, actually setting up businesses on the ground, paying taxes that help fund development and social services, employing and training that nation’s citizens, not to mention building real relationships. Iain Marlow

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