Saturday, January 28, 2012
It was thus very encouraging to hear President Barack Obama call out the nation's "incomplete high-speed broadband network that prevents a small business owner in rural America from selling her products all over the world" in his State of the Union address to Congress this week. Millions of Americans are painfully aware of just how incomplete Internet infrastructure is as they look only a couple of miles away or even just down the road or street to neighbors who have access while they do not.
The president also used his speech to call upon Congress to fund telecom and other critical infrastructure. Congress should respond to Obama's urging by providing technical assistance and construction funding for community-based networks to finish the job where investor-owned providers such as legacy telcos and cable companies cannot make a business case for doing so. This is what was done in the 1930s when market failure led to a similar problem with telephone service and electrical power and cooperatives and local governments filled in the gaps.
Tuesday, January 17, 2012
There remains a major misapprehension in the United States -- in the nation that invented it -- that the Internet is only about email and websites when in fact it delivers Internet Protocol TV and movies. It's also the updated version of Plain Old Telephone Service (POTS) over copper to Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP). And that's not even mentioning videoconferencing, telehealth and distance learning. All can be delivered simultaneously over a single fiber optic connection.
Nevertheless, there remain many media accounts such as this one from Minnesota Public Radio that would have readers believe it's still circa 1996 when the Internet was a relative novelty (then mostly accessed via AOL over dialup connections). A decade and a half ago, it was understandable that as this January 17, 2012 MPR story reports there were "Many people don't believe there's anything on the Internet they need." That was a relevant perception back then. But it's badly outdated in 2012.