Marxist tech: Shared bandwidth means faster connections

Credit: Bewifi

Sure, we’re making major strides when it comes to the Wi-Fi on our airplanes and at the bottom of our oceans, but what have we done for the home consumer lately? If you aren’t privy to Google Fiber (i.e. if you don’t live in Kansas City), you may wish there was a faster Internet alternative available.

And what is more frustrating for those who want a faster internet connection than seeing the neighbor’s Wi-Fi networks sitting vacant as they sleep the night away while you’re still up browsing Reddit and Skyping your long-distance girlfriend? Say hello to BeWifi, the technology that allows you to use your elderly neighbors’ Wi-Fi after they hit the hay. Basically, the tech gathers bandwidth from local Wi-Fi routers and lets you use it.

"Your broadband connection is not used 100 percent of the time," said Pablo Rodriguez, Telefonica's Director of Product Innovation and Research, told Wired. "If you bring [connections] together smartly and manage to aggregate the spare capacity...[it's] a much better customer experience."

So how’s it work? First, Telefonica, the braintrust behind BeWifi, needs to install routers into houses in a neighborhood that will be sharing bandwidth. At present, engineers handle this, but soon any regular Joe will be able to plug one in and get to it. The final goal is to have it be completely software-based.

Once those routers are installed, all the bandwidth of the neighborhood is pooled together. It’s a lot like splitting the check when out with friends: sometimes you’ll pay more and sometimes less. That guy on the block who spends his days downloading torrents will be allotted more bandwidth than the person who uses it primarily for cat photos.

This, of course, raised some eyebrows. Telefonica’s plan is to make it proportional to the amount of overall bandwidth a user contributes. But in its beta testing, the company found that people generally use the Internet in sporadic bursts, meaning there’s almost always some extra bandwidth hanging out, completely unused.

Additionally, folks have found extra benefits with the system. For instance, if you lose your connection entirely due to a power outage or whatnot, then you can still access the web through a neighbor’s router. But most importantly, it allows everyone the fastest possible connection with bandwidth that is currently completely wasted.

So for those who don’t live in Kansas City, this could be the answer to your Internet woes.

BeWifi, via Ars Technica

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