Friday, October 14, 2005

"Time for a real Internet highway"

The metaphor of the internet as the Interstate of our day, and as a utility as necessary as any other is making headway. In tech-savvy locations like CNet you are beginning to see knowledgeable reporters give up the conventions of "he said, she said" reporting and begin simply speaking in sensible terms about what the nation's real choices are. It's damn gratifying and long overdue--the central function of media is not sell ads and avoid offending potential advertisers; it's central purpose is to inform the public.

And, for a change, you see the intelligence of reporters showing through in pieces like: Time for a real Internet highway
"The Internet is a utility, without which our daily lives cannot be productive or interesting. Governments, companies and institutions now need it to function. So do you and I.

Once upon a time in America, toll roads through the forests and canals were dug using private money. Both were owned by private companies. That didn't work. Public highways did. "
That's pretty much it in a nutshell; there really are areas of endeavor where private investment doesn't work...I'd only fault this article for not making explicit what underlies that inability: that roads, canals, the water system and the electical utilities are natural monopolies with all the disadvantages in terms of exploitive pricing and wretched service that attend to any monopoly. Turning those areas of the economy over to highly regulated private enterprise was a compromise born in days when the public sector simply couldn't afford to do the job. Those days are over. All that is missing to correct the situation now is the political will to offend coroporate campaign contributers.

What's particularly gratifying about the CNet discussion for this social studies person is the clear understanding of history and economics:

A similar process put electricity into the less populated and poorer areas of America. Where I grew up, in the Missouri Ozarks, our electricity came from a federally supported co-op. No private company could turn a profit stringing copper wire up and down those thinly populated hills.

We already have our highway system and our electricity. Time has come for our broadband. It's a utility. We now need broadband to live, work, recreate and even make a profit. Whether in Palo Alto, Calif., or Cavalier, N.D., we need our broadband. Many local areas of America are attacking the need for broadband ubiquity, but perhaps it's time for a national program.

Fiber, cable or wireless--many areas of America are not going to run a profit for any broadband service provider. It's time for the National System of Interstate and Homeland Defense Broadband. Private companies will make billions building the system, as with the interstate highways. Once it's done, we'll all profit.

A breath of fresh air.

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