Nitin Garg, Sumeet Sobti, Junwen Lai, Fengzhou Zheng, Kai Li, Arvind Krishnamurthy, and Randolph Wang. Bridging the digital divide: storage media + postal network = generic high-bandwidth communication. ACM Transactions on Storage (TOS), Volume 1, Issue 2. May 2005.
Making high-bandwidth Internet access pervasively available to a large world-wide audience is a difficult challenge, especially in many developing regions. As we wait for the uncertain takeoff of technologies that promise to improve the situation, we propose to explore an approach that is potentially more easily realizable: the use of digital storage media transported by the postal system as a general digital communication mechanism. We shall call such a system a Postmanet. Compared to more conventional wide-area connectivity options, the Postmanet has several important advantages, including wide global reach, great bandwidth potential, low cost, and ease of incremental adoption. While the idea of sending digital content via the postal system is not a new one, none of the existing attempts have turned the postal system into a generic and transparent communication channel that not only can cater to a wide array of applications, but also effectively manage the many idiosyncrasies associated with using the postal system. In the proposed Postmanet, we see two recurring themes at many different levels of the system. One is the simultaneous exploitation of the Internet and the postal system so we can combine their latency and bandwidth advantages. The other is the exploitation of the abundant capacity and bandwidth of the Postmanet to improve its latency, cost, and reliability.