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.