The internet is a big thing.
Let that sink in a moment. Big, and by Big I mean like more than just large. If we were to print all the information on the internet, double sided and on regular letter, it would be.. I don't know let me generate a statistic (rolls dice) 100 million tons of paper.
OK now that you know I don't know exactly how big the internet is let me move on to something I do know. The US internet has started sucking. When I say suck I mean our crappy connection speeds. Sure there are a few exceptions but in general we get excited about 5Mb per second download with only 512K upload. Well Mr. McSpeedy internet let me tell you something, that sucks. In Japan for about $22 a month you can get 26Mbs to your home. Ok we pay that for 1.5Mb. "Sure Japan is all developed and stuff" you may be thinking. This isn't just in their big cities. Part of the deal they have with the Government is that they have to provide this to the smaller cities and villages as well. I am fairly sure they don't have fiber running to all the villages but I also guarantee that the folks in those villages wouldn't have computers to use, however they can flip open their cell phone and have transfer speeds comparable to our broadband. Let me restate that, their cell phones have transfer speed comparable to our wired broadband.
Part of the problem here is that our current President has no interest in broadband and has provided no incentives or legislature to encourage the development of broadband. The cable and phone companies have no real desire for ultra high speed broadband as it would cut into their bread and butter services. Imagine if you could purchase a movie online and download it in 5 minutes and then watch it when you wanted to, would you pay $14 a month for HBO which may or may not be showing the movie you want? Let us take that a step further. Would you subscribe to an online site that could stream (imagine PVR) a movie to your house in real time based on what you wanted to watch and charge about the same as you pay for HBO, except you get to choose from the full catalog of movies? Phone companies are already realizing that they are going to go the way of the telegram before long.
In Japan you can add VOIP for $5 a month. Lessee that takes your 26Mb connection and phone bill up to $27. Currently I pay $74 for Vonage and Road Runner.
Back to the legislature. Originally Clinton was interested in the internet. He had plans to make the US a highly competitive internet entity. There were incentives and a push to make line owners (cable and phone) allow third party companies to lease space on their lines thus allowing competition where otherwise there would be none. The companies were to run fiber to the house. Well Clinton left office, and so did the momentum. The companies complained that the extra fiber was going to kill them so they negotiated fiber to the node and then copper to the house. Then they argued that forcing them to allow third parties to lease their lines was just bad. Now we are thankful for 5 Mbs internet because we as US citizens don't understand how much we are getting boned.
There have been cities which tried to create a municipal internet but have been sued by cable or phone companies because it puts city government in direct competition with private industry. Go figure. If a monopolistic company teams with another and both decide to price/speed fix something, then the people get pissed because they don't provide then the companies can sue. Sweet.
So why am I so pumped up? I'm tired of unreliable, slow broadband. I'm tired of being treated as a criminal because I am a consumer. I'm tired of the FUD (fear uncertainty doubt) that the big companies and government put on digital media/technology. My generation and those after me will be crippled in a global market because we allow big monopoly companies to control our technology. Look at the RIAA, Look at internet providers, Look at our cell phone companies. We are allowing our Big Business companies to legislate the US out of validity. Before long the US will no long be ahead in anything, but fade into mediocrity and before long out of relevance. The internet connection is not the cause of this downfall, far from it, however it is one example. In the future the internet will be more and more important. It will be how we are entertained, how we vote, how we communicate, how we do business, and we will be stuck in technology decades behind the competition. This is a lot more important than little Bobby wanting to download movies, this is relevant business, and we won’t be getting this business in the US unless we start making a change now.