The Internet has been dying a slow dead ever since the commercialization and the ad's came, but soon it may be dying a second death as soon as ISP's start prioritizing and blocking traffic more frequently, and governments have more and more laws on what is allowed to be on the Internet. It seems the days of the 'wild wild west' Internet are coming to an end as governments start to realize that complete freedom of information threatens their authority, and corporations start to realize that there is more money to be made if they limit their users use (eg: by making them pay per email sent, per website visited, as suggested by some ISP's). This vision is far far away from the academic Internet of the early days.
Personally I'm already starting to look for alternative WAN's to use for when the day comes that the drip floods the bucket and the Internet just won't be usable/economic for my purposes anymore.
There have been some interesting developments from HAM radio operators who run their own TCP/IP bridges and BBS servers over packet radio networks, sometimes even at decent speed as you get higher up in the radio spectrum (the higher the radio freq. the higher bit rates that can be used, or the less bandwidth a signal needs to use to achieve the same speeds.(and the FCC is VERY concerned about bandwidth usage).) These guys have their amsat project. They have a non-stationary bird in space which runs a BBS; so when the satellite is over the USA someone can upload a message, and a few hours later when it's over Europe, a person in europe can download the message from the satellite and read the message. Quite interesting.
I'm also looking at how people are creating large wireless networks in some areas, though it seems that there is also more and more regulations in that area.
Does anyone know of any other interesting WAN projects that could some day be an alternative?