Sunday, August 23, 2009

Why Socialized Internet Would Be Good For America

The Issue

When the United States began laying the first power lines around the turn of the 20th century, lawmakers identified several problems with the idea of private utility companies. City streets and neighborhoods would have competing lines of power traveling above and underground and would consume twice as much real estate for the same purpose. Not only would it be aesthetically messy, but it would become terribly inefficient. Companies would charge higher, sometimes unaffordable rates to rural customers because of their longer distances from power stations. It is because of this that there are several government-sanctioned utility services which provide most if not all power to all areas of a state at flat rates which are closely monitored and controlled.

Now, American homes and businesses have many additional utilities to pay. Cable TV. Landline Phone. Mobile Phone. Broadband Internet. I pay over $150 a month for these services. It seems strange to me that now, over a century later, my money is funding the construction of several different multi-million dollar networks of cables and towers that are all competing with each other to do what is essentially the same thing: transmit information.

How It Could Work

Amidst the ongoing debate with Net Neutrality, the one true option that could guarantee unrestricted access for all Americans would be federal, state, and local government cooperation. It could be constructed, maintained, and regulated in the same tiered fashion as our state highways, county routes, and city streets. With emerging Wimax technologies, which allow for wireless transmission of data at broadband speed, its becoming easier and more affordable than ever to build a high-speed network that can accommodate our nation's data services.

Why It Would Be Good For America

The American crisis in the automotive sector speaks volumes about why the United States must move past a manufacturing economy. For every single new car that GM sells, $1500 directly pays for the medical bills of retirees. This one example of many staggering overhead costs squeezed out of the company by auto unions that has made it almost impossible for GM to maintain a competitive advantage. With increased global competition from developing nations, it seems that the American way of life is becoming simply unsustainable with manufacturing. Like Apple and computers, perhaps we shouldn't be building these products anymore but designing them.

As the country who invented the internet, we only rank 15th in the world in average broadband speed, and you have to wonder how well we're positioned to continue as a global superpower in an information-based economy. In the last century, the construction, maintenance, and regulation of our nation's highways and roads were the critical backbone of our goods-based economy. Conventional wisdom has argued that a short-term investment in that physical infrastructure would result in a stronger long-term economy. Now, as the nation continues to transform into a service and information economy, the quality, speed, and access to our information network may in fact determine our economic strength in the future. Instead of the industrial revolutions which shaped nations at different times in world history, a much larger shift is occurring today throughout the world, and if we intend on maintaining relevance in the information economy of the future, the United States has to embrace change unilaterally and unconditionally.

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