The grandest of the grand plans to wrap the planet in connectivity dies a quiet death… at least for now. Was Craig McCaw’s dream of ubiquitous satellite Internet access simply too far ahead of its time, a long-term plan in an era that focused everything on the short term, or was it doomed from the start?
One of the great connectivity connundrums is that as communications technology decentralizes, getting bandwidth somewhere becomes easier and cheaper, but getting it everywhere becomes harder. Business models that assume huge up-front capital expenditures crumble. Yet bootstrapping from a small base, which is what the Internet did and what WiFi hotspot operators are trying to do today, may not work in communications. Or perhaps it will just take a long time. This is a critical question for the recovery of the telecom sector.