AROUND 3.2 BILLION people have access to the Internet. That’s amazing, but it’s fewer than half of the 7 billion or so people on earth. And while Internet access was once a luxury, it is quickly becoming essential as the world’s commerce, educational resources, and entertainment move online.
Fortunately, there’s no shortage of schemes to bring Internet to underserved countries, ranging from low-orbit satellites to high-altitude balloons to drones. Some analysts have criticized these projects, arguing they won’t deliver Internet access at prices people in the developing world can afford. It’s a bit like trying to make up for a lack of roads by building cars that don’t need them, says Mark Summer of EveryLayer, a Silicon Valley company that helps local ISPs create wireless networks in Africa, the Caribbean, and Southeast Asia. The alternative? Deploy Internet the old-fashioned way.
“It’s not so sexy to build roads, but we’re not going to overcome the challenge of missing infrastructure with flying cars,” he says.
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