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This May, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission plans to auction off radio spectrum to jump-start new services to let you talk on your cellphone and surf the Web while you're on an airliner. Regulators in Europe and Japan are heading in this direction, too. While this first U.S. auction is for the proposed broadband services only, the FCC's overall move in the direction of relaxing the ban on the use of personal electronics during flight has made some folks happy--and many others worried.

Happy, obviously, are the companies that will supply the technologies to make this happen, as well as those travelers who consider cellphones and e-mail to be organic extensions of their central nervous systems. Not so happy are flight attendants, who feel that cellphones and other portable electronic devices have already complicated their jobs. And a lot of passengers aren't thrilled about the prospect of listening to someone blather on for 10 000 kilometers.

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Why the Internet Needs the InterPlanetary File System

Peer-to-peer file sharing would make the Internet far more efficient

12 min read
An illustration of a series
Carl De Torres

When the COVID-19 pandemic erupted in early 2020, the world made an unprecedented shift to remote work. As a precaution, some Internet providers scaled back service levels temporarily, although that probably wasn’t necessary for countries in Asia, Europe, and North America, which were generally able to cope with the surge in demand caused by people teleworking (and binge-watching Netflix). That’s because most of their networks were overprovisioned, with more capacity than they usually need. But in countries without the same level of investment in network infrastructure, the picture was less rosy: Internet service providers (ISPs) in South Africa and Venezuela, for instance, reported significant strain.

But is overprovisioning the only way to ensure resilience? We don’t think so. To understand the alternative approach we’re championing, though, you first need to recall how the Internet works.

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