Blockchain Can Enable Better Internet Access For Anyone

Opinion | June 27, 2018 By:

For all the talk about the potential impact blockchain technology can have on various industries, very little has been said about the sea-change it can bring to how everyone uses the Internet.

Who among us hasn’t had to deal with a buffering Netflix or YouTube stream, lagged out video game or dropped video conference? It is a problem borne out of modern convenience, of course, but it is still very real and can have a material offline economic impact. This does not have to happen.

Distributed ledger technology is ideally suited for enabling consumers and businesses to use so-called “fast lanes,” to pay more for improved web access. This service is already in limited use with some ISPs and is increasingly being considered by Internet service providers (ISPs) as demand for it continues to rise. Not only can it enable a preferred level of service for critical activities, it can do so without placing anyone at a disadvantage.

First, let’s talk about what fast lanes are, and also what they aren’t. Fast lanes are the equivalent of the HOV lane seen on many highways. By meeting certain criteria, in this case choosing to pay slightly more for improved service, individuals and businesses can take advantage of access to a separate lane that routes their traffic through congestion and enables them to arrive at their destination faster. In more complicated terms, this means lower latency (not speed) is guaranteed. Latency is far more important than speed despite the way most internet access is sold and marketed.

What fast lanes do not do is enable streaming services, websites or other content providers to have a preferred level of access over others. Again, going back to the highway analogy, people not in the HOV lane are still on the same highway they always were. They aren’t relegated to a dirt road with a lower speed limit. People and companies who do not use fast lanes will have the same exact internet access they have right now. Claims to the contrary are false and misleading.

By allowing smart contracts to intelligently route consumers and businesses to the best “lane,” blockchain technology can create a decentralized ecosystem where anyone, anywhere can take advantage of surplus capacity on networks they would not normally have access to. This is a win-win for consumers and ISPs because the added choice provides a higher level of service and, more importantly, adds a more diversified revenue stream for providers.

At this point, some of you are wondering how this makes money, an important question for any blockchain application. I would also bet that many more of you are wondering how to pay for fast lane access. One word: Tokenization.

By tokenizing these transactions, ISPs are able to accurately bill in a per-second, on-demand basis. These transactions need to be tokenized because rates work out to pennies per hour, and would often be fractions of a penny instead of a subscription paid each month. Cryptocurrencies can be parsed far more easily than fiat currencies, and smart contracts enable automatic settlements of these fractional transactions across ISPs.

If we’re being honest, most online activities do not need fast lane access. But those critical or latency sensitive uses that need it in short bursts would certainly benefit from a guaranteed minimum latency that eliminates buffering, lag or time outs, and blockchain offers the best possible solution.

Heng Him is the CEO of IQToken and a computing and blockchain expert with over two decades of developing enterprise networking solutions for major corporations.