This month, California’s deadliest fire displaced 150,000 people and simultaneously disrupted cell service in the heaviest-hit areas. Two months ago, Hurricane Florence rendered 10.7 percent of cell sites in affected areas of Georgia, the Carolinas, and Virginia out of service, disrupting communications for many in their time of greatest need. Victims of fires and storms alike depend on oftentimes-vulnerable infrastructure to talk to each other.
But what if you didn’t need cell towers or WiFi routers to communicate wirelessly? What if refugees could connect with each other using just their smartphones?
New technologies such as wireless mesh networks could allow you to talk to your friends and family on a smartphone even when cell towers or wireless services in your area stop working, representing a leap forward for convenience and for public safety. However, to make way for these innovations, we need to clarify the regulatory environment and move away from current spectrum licensing policies that favor big network providers.