Credit: Reuters/Stringer Shanghai
As many outside onlookers have observed over the years, we Americans don't do things half-assed. We do things whole-assed, whether they are right or wrong. Go big or go home, indeed. We certainly did the world a service by building the Internet in the first place, and we're apparently putting just as much effort into destroying it -- at least for ourselves -- a few short decades later.
Discussing the state of HTML5, DRM, and Netflix's odd pressure on browser development, Cory Doctorow recently wrote, "Try as I might, I can't shake the feeling that 2014 is the year we lose the Web." He may be right about that, but I'm not sure it's just the Web we'll lose in 2014. More than likely, we're about to lose the entire Internet as we know it.
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As I've stated more than once, we seem to need to reduce good and positive developments to smoking rubble in order to see that certain decisions and actions that occurred along the way may have not been the best of ideas. Only when we have completely torched an object we took for granted do we collectively have the hindsight necessary to see where we went wrong and to lament the loss of an item we had so carefully created.
So it is with the Internet, at least in the United States. Many other countries (Canada and Australia conspicuously not included) are well on their way to guaranteeing their future productivity, economic stability, and technological proficiency by ensuring that Internet access in their country is fast, cheap, and plentiful. Here in the States, we're doing the exact opposite, as fast as we possibly can.
How can we pull out of this death spiral? While it would be nice to see ISPs finally classified as the common carriers they are, that's only part of the solution. The real deal is the commoditization of broadband Internet access, with true free market competition. There are other ways we could try, such as highly regulated regional monopolies, which works for electricity and telephone. Or perhaps we could place Internet access within the purview of the municipality, as we do with water, sewer, and in many places, natural gas.
Those are all viable options, but unfortunately I have little hope that either would make it through the vast dollars flowing from the various lobbyists to our technologically and reality-challenged politicians -- just look at how many states that have inexplicably made municipal Internet access illegal, based on the fact that it would be unfair competition to an existing monopoly. Sadly, those dollars may ensure that there is no way for the U.S. Internet to be saved.