Mexican Drug Cartels Built Their Own National Radio System

People often complain about the lack of competition in the cellular phone market. For the most part there are only four players; T-Mobiles, Sprint, AT&T, and Verizon. Opponents of capitalism claim this is an inevitable result of capitalism when in truth it’s an inevitable result of government involvement in the free market. New cell phone providers aren’t popping up left and right because licensing spectrum from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is fucking expensive. If it wasn’t for the massive cost of licensing spectrum from the FCC the cost of setting up a national radio system would be so cheap a drug cartel could do it:

When convoys of soldiers or federal police move through the scrubland of northern Mexico, the Zetas drug cartel knows they are coming.

The alert goes out from a taxi driver or a street vendor, equipped with a high-end handheld radio and paid to work as a lookout known as a “halcon,” or hawk.

The radio signal travels deep into the arid countryside, hours by foot from the nearest road. There, the 8-foot-tall (2-meter-tall) dark-green branches of the rockrose bush conceal a radio tower painted to match. A cable buried in the dirt draws power from a solar panel. A signal-boosting repeater relays the message along a network of powerful antennas and other repeaters that stretch hundreds of miles (kilometers) across Mexico, a shadow communications system allowing the cartel to coordinate drug deliveries, kidnapping, extortion and other crimes with the immediacy and precision of a modern military or law-enforcement agency.

With the ever increasing stranglehold our government is establishing over the Internet there may be a day when we have to establish a new network outside of the government’s control. When that day comes we’ll likely have to take a lesson from the Mexican drug cartels in setting up a wireless communication system that is both cheap to create and maintain but robust enough to cover a large portion of the population. It’s also interesting to watch the ingenuity of criminal endeavors. Since criminals aren’t bound by the letter of law they can innovate in ways businesses can not, and many of these innovations don’t involve violence but technological solutions to avoiding government forces.