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It doesn't take a visitor long to notice that South Koreans have some of the best telecommunications in the world. Cellphones work flawlessly, even in the depths of Seoul's subway system. Head-phoned teenagers hunch over virtual battlefields displayed on multimedia PCs in cramped Internet game rooms known as "baangs," which are themselves tethered to the Net by optical fiber. Meanwhile, at more laid-back cafés, open laptops are the norm, as fast Wi-Fi signals share the air with the fragrant scent of fresh-brewed coffee.

It's hard to imagine South Korea needing even more connectivity. Yet the republic is making a collective bet that it does. Even as leading carriers like SK Telecom, in Seoul, are investing heavily to improve data rates on their cellular networks, which already are state of the art, the government--with the full support of the nation's wireless providers and equipment makers--has pushed a competing technology called "wireless broadband," or WiBro for short.

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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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