Why I’m rooting for Meter
If you asked customers and onlookers what Meter does, they would say WiFi (short for Wireless Fidelity). That’s also what the website says.
But the truth is that the term ‘wireless’ is a misnomer. The internet, and our world, is deeply dependent on wires. And where they go and will go and how and who we connect to them has massive implications for humanity.
Like roads, or pipes, or power lines, internet infrastructure connects people to each other and the things they need to live a happy, healthy, and prosperous life.
It wasn’t always the case that technology companies thought of themselves as infrastructure, or that people thought of technology companies this way, but it is crystal clear today that the internet is a critical component of infrastructure. It’s something we talked a lot about at Stripe… and I mean a lot. Given the not only virtues and business implications of actually being an infrastructure company, it’s something many organizations like to claim and aspire to.
Meter is no exception. But, unlike the majority of those companies for whom infrastructure means the stuff in the cloud, Meter is also concerned with the stuff in the ground.
To understand the space that Meter is operating in and the future they are building towards is to contemplate just how much surface area we are talking about; things held in hands to things fixed in walls, humans to machines, work to play, the ocean floor to in-orbit satellites, city centers to remote neighborhoods, public policy to personal preferences.
In many ways, the shape of the internet will dictate the shape of our society. It may sound grandiose at first blush, but there this work is a meaningful force in facilitating people’s access to and experience of the internet. We’ve all encountered the concept of the ‘digital divide.’ This is where the rubber meets the road, literally.
Our World In Data’s report on the share of the world population using the internet takes an upbeat tone, but doesn’t gloss over the fact that “There are still countries where almost nothing has changed since 1990. In the very poorest countries – including Eritrea, Somalia, Guinea-Bissau, the Central African Republic, Niger, and Madagascar – fewer than 5% are online. And at the very bottom is North Korea, where the country’s oppressive regime restricts the access to the walled-off North Korean intranet Kwangmyong and access to the global internet is only granted to a very small elite.” Remote towns that have been left behind are taking things into their own hands. It’s charming in some ways, but scary in others. (You can read about one small town’s story here and the broader trends here). Google Fiber phoned it in, and think of all the resources they have at their disposal. Still, Google, Facebook, and Microsoft are trying to buy up massive undersea cables but It’s become quite political. Security breeches are increasingly common.
There’s a long way to go, but I’m glad someone is taking that responsibility seriously.