I don't think my opinion is going to be a popular one.
The idea of decentralized mesh networks taking over the infrastructure of the Internet sounds nice. Unfortunately, with the technology we have now, it is not feasible. The problems are fundamental issues with the physics of moving bits around.
At the end of the day, basic telecommunication is about providing high bandwidth and low latency. Customers have an insatiable need for both and they will always strive to get more bandwidth and less latency. Centralized, wired networking infrastructure will always win. Whatever the level of technology we have, centralized systems will always provide more bandwidth and less latency for the same price.
Mesh networks are amazing technology, and they have their place in specialized niche applications and scenarios. They just do not scale to the level of backhaul Internet traffic.
Decentralized mesh networks imply wireless. The amount of communication traffic that can be transferred across a given area is limited by the radio spectrum available. Any transmitter broadcasting in the same area will have to share whatever maximum limit is available for the spectrum being used. High speed wired connections user fiber optic cables. These cables have the same limit, there is a theoretical maximum amount of data that can be passed down a cable. The advantage is, you can always string another cable.
With wireless, once you saturate the spectrum in an area, you are done. With wired, you can have as much traffic as you are willing to string cables to support.
Any advancement that improves our ability to more efficiently use wireless spectrum can generally be applied to fiber optic communication as well. Wired communication has always provided more bandwidth than wireless, and there is no research that indicates this will change anytime soon.
In the digital world, latency is all about the number of hops your packets take, and how efficient your routers are. We can assume the routers in both schemes are equally efficient, therefore latency is all about the number of hops your packets take. A centralized system is architected to reduce latency. This is why we have giant backbone connections between major cities. These are the fast lanes that get your data as close to your destination as possible. With mesh networks, you have a large network of nodes, but no major trunks. There is no fast lane. Due to the fundamental design of a mesh network, you will always require more hops to get from one place to another, compared to centralized systems. It is the difference between driving on the highway system, and trying to get everywhere in the country using back roads.
There is also the problem with coverage. Mesh networks need a path from any location in the network to another. This might be easy in a city, but it gets very spotty between cities, and it becomes impossible across oceans. If we start talking about satellites, we have an even worse problem. We now have to deal with the time it takes light to get from the earth to the satellite and back. The round trip for light to a geostationary satellite is 250ms. Common satellite internet connections have latency on the order of 600ms. This is unacceptable, unless you don't have any other choice. I have lived in rural areas. Trust me, it really sucks. Also, satellite communication is wireless, so you have the bandwidth problem described above as well, and there will be A LOT of people sharing that single pipe into your satellite.
LEO satellites would be much better off, with latency from transmission at around 40ms. This wouldn't be horrible, but LEO has a whole slew of problems that require technology and coordination capabilities that are not currently possible. Either way, even LEO will always be slower than terrestrial connections that don't need to throw their photons to space and back.
All of that fiber strung across the earth and the oceans is there for a reason.
Now, here is where you'all really start to dislike my post:
I predict that, if Maidsafe is successful, the network will trend toward becoming increasingly centralized. Large farmers will take over and be the dominant force in the network, and this is a good thing. I want a copy of the data I am looking for to be as close to me as possible, that means being in a large datacenter, in my city, with a fat pipe. I also don't want my cell phone serving data, it has limited battery life and limited bandwidth (that wireless thing again). I would rather run a large server at home, that I can ensure has a fat pipe that will nearly always be connected. No matter how far technology advances, my cell phone will always have less power, storage, and bandwidth compared to my home computer.
You can create systems that limit the forming of large farming systems, but this will only limit the network. Centralization will lead to higher bandwidth and lower latency. For a fundamental infrastructure, like the SAFE network, bandwidth and latency are the end all and be all of success. If we do not allow this to happen, someone else will copy the network with these restrictions removed.
In my opinion, trying to "decentralize the Internet" is not the promise of the SAFE network. The true power of Maidsafe is the further decoupling of infrastructure from functionality. Currently, if you want to build a modern application, you need to provide servers, bandwidth, storage space, etc. It also means that application builders have control of those things as well. By moving those tools down into the infrastructure, you not only free the builders from needing to build it all themselves, you also free the users from the control that such a design makes possible.
Maidsafe forces neutrality on the infrastructure providers, they don't control what is run on their systems. There are rigid expectations on what resources they provide and how they do it. It is incredibly difficult for them to have any effect on the actual functionality built upon what they provide. And if they attempt any shenanigans, they risk bringing down the entire system.
The SAFE network won't free us from centralized infrastructure, it provides a new social contract that dictates our expectations from that central infrastructure. We currently live in the monarchy of the interwebs, maidsafe is a democratic republic.