Collaboration

Does our Internet infrastructure need an upgrade?

Does our Internet infrastructure need an upgrade? According to a reporter from News.com, the answer is a definitive "yes." While we continually see bond projects for roads, water, sewer, and other infrastructure projects, the unseen Internet infrastructure is decaying as a result of the massive demands we have placed on it.

According to a reporter from News.com, the answer is a definitive "yes." While we continually see bond projects for roads, water, sewer, and other infrastructure projects, the unseen Internet infrastructure is decaying as a result of the massive demands we have placed on it.

The traditional Internet's architecture was not designed, nor can it be expected to handle, the demands being placed on it. Bandwidth demand is growing rapidly, outpacing supply. It's as if every home in America suddenly needed 10 times more water at 10 times the quality coming out of the same size faucet.

Much of the infrastructure is being upgraded by telecommunications companies, but as the author notes, the United States is number 15 when it comes to broadband penetration (I mentioned this in a previous blog about the digital divide). We already see network slowdowns during peak times, and we are a long way away from the 99% penetration that the author thinks is appropriate for a technology leader.

We need ubiquitous broadband penetration in the U.S. if we intend to claim leadership in the next Internet age.

Fixing our fraying Internet infrastructure (News.com)

The government has, to date, helped the emergence of Internet access by resisting the urge to tax it as they do nearly everything else. However, Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton has proposed going a step further by calling for a national broadband system, saying:

"In the 19th Century, we invested in railroads. In the 20th Century, we built the interstate highway system. In the 21st Century information economy, we need to invest in our information infrastructure."

In addition, Clinton has made the all too obvious claim that one of the keys to our economy is Internet access, which makes perfect sense as consumers can connect to businesses and consume goods and services at any time from the comfort of their own homes. In addition, with broadband access, innovators can do their thing from virtually anywhere, spurring the next generation of technologies that will help keep America the king of the Internet hill.

Internet under siege (The Washington Times)

Clinton Calls For National Broadband System (RTT News)

Internet Access Key to Economy (Associated Press)

I do find it a bit concerning that, in the country that invented, popularized, and managed the Internet to its current state, we are not even in the top ten in broadband penetration. I don't agree with Hillary Clinton on much, but I do believe that Internet access is one of the keys to our economy as well as a great way for people to move up the socioeconomic ladder. Part of the reason that so many other countries are so far ahead of us is that their governments have treated Internet infrastructure in the same way that they treat water, electricity, sewer, and roads: like a utility.

Personally, I am as dependent on the Internet as one can possibly be. I work in the IT Department at a college, I have several computers and an XBox 360 on the Net at home, and my wife and I have an Internet-based retail business. I have had broadband for nigh on a decade now and am still surprised when people tell me they are on dial-up or, worse yet, not connected at all. I find it encouraging that at least some politicians are talking about extending our broadband infrastructure to the boonies and upgrading it to increase quality of service.

Do you think our Internet infrastructure needs to be upgraded?

5 comments
sboverie
sboverie

This is a tricky question. The internet infrastructure really needs to be upgraded and updated. The follow up question is what organisation is best to deal with this problem? The goverment can provide resources but tends to attach conditions that complicate and politicize government involvement (look at China and Myanmar for how government views resources). Private industry may be more efficient but tends to pricing that makes access expensive. The challenge would be to get funding that would allow the infrastructure to be updated and upgraded at a reasonable cost to the public. My hopes are that the resulting system would be apolitical and very democratic in providing access to anyone who needs access and not a system that governments can use against their own people.

Skruis
Skruis

I think the biggest factor in our falling behind (did we ever lead?) in Internet penetration is just the massive size of our country. How do we compare to countries approaching our size? I can see smaller european countries beating us simply because when you look at the total cost of upgrading the infrastructure in that country, it's far less than upgrading the entire infrastructure in our own. There's also less companies involved in the process of upgrading a european country's infrastructure. Here in the US, there are more players guarding their bottom lines that perhaps aren't that eager to spend millions upgrading their infrastructure.

Andy Moon
Andy Moon

What would you do to improve the service and reach of the Internet in America? Personally, I would start doing more with QOS for time sensitive data types and work harder with telecom companies and other NGOs to get broadband rolled out even to rural areas. We can extend the reach of the Internet to 99% of Americans, but it will take some cajoling just like it did when we extended the infrastructure for electricity and telephone.

Andy J. Moon
Andy J. Moon

...but when we extended the electric and phone grids, there were companies invested in guarding their bottom line and we were still able to do it. When we extended our phone and electric grids, the size of the country was not an issue, either. As long as we allow the broadband providers to ignore huge swaths of rural Americans, we will continue to lag in broadband penetration, which will eventually have a negative impact on our rate of innovation when compared to other countries.

Skruis
Skruis

I agree as long as the telecoms aren't the ones that determine what data types qualify for QOS. Some oversight by a reasonable technology comittee would be required.