While most people were not watching, New York has become host to yet another layer of infrastructure, a random, interlinking constellation of what are called “wireless access points.” A survey last summer found more than 12,000 access points bristling throughout Manhattan alone, many open to anyone with a wireless card, many others closed and private, and still others available for a fee.
None of these were laid down by city workers. No streets were torn up. No laws were passed. Rather, this network has been made possible by the proliferation of ever more affordable wireless routers and networking devices, which in turn transmit the low-range, unlicensed spectrum (a wild frontier, home also to baby monitors and cordless phones) known as 802.11b, or, more genially, Wi-Fi.
This is what needs to happen in the cities of the emerging markets.