When the original iPhone launched in 2007, the only thing worse than its abysmal camera was the cellular data provided by AT&T’s sluggish, outage-prone network.
Even Steve Jobs thought AT&T’s data speeds sucked, and according to Re/Code’s Walt Mossberg, Jobs wanted to circumvent the need for cellular data altogether by creating an open WiFi consortium.
Jobs dreamed that iPhone users would one day be able to seamlessly hop around from one open hotspot to another, much like your iPhone moves from one cellular tower to another, according to Mossberg.
Jobs said he understood the need for security, but he was determined to figure out a way to make free, safe, Wi-Fi sharing from homes and small local businesses not only possible, but common. He even told me that he planned to get other companies involved, in a sort of consortium, to make this happen.
To make his dream of an global open WiFi network possible, Steve wanted to get as many wireless router manufacturers to start building guest network options that would be walled off from the rest of the home network. Apple’s AirPort routers have the option to “Enable Guest Network” in the wireless tab of its OS X and iOS AirPort utility apps.
Once other router makers also adopted guest networks, Jobs hoped people would be encouraged to share their bandwidth with strangers so people walking through your neighborhood could sip a few minutes of Netflix off your router while walking the dog.
Obviously some people wouldn’t be cool with freeloaders mooching off their expensive data plans, but it certainly wouldn’t be hard for Apple and others to make an easy-to-use interface to set bandwidth and time limits. Unfortunately, the public consortium for WiFi sharing never emerged, but maybe tech companies are finally ready to make the move.