Does technology affect America’s future? How about our ‘Net Gap?

Plugging in the Web
Enjoy the whole
series: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10. 


Are you aware of America’s widening ‘Net Gap? We’re slipping, compared with other developed nations and the results could be serious.
    Celebrating the Internet’s 40th anniversary was a reason behind DARPA’s Network Challenge with the red balloons. (See parts 5 and 6 in our series.)

DARPA originated the idea of the Internet. Al Gore didn’t invent the Internet, but he and Bill Clinton played key roles in U.S. policy and governmental initiatives, such as the National Infrastructure Initiative and the Telecommunications Act of 1996.


The U.S. led the world in Internet access up through the Clinton-Gore years.

Under Bush, the U.S. fell from 4th to 13th in global broadband Internet usage, said Thomas Bleha in 2005. Writing in Foreign Affairs, he argues that neglect was the cause—the Bush-Cheney administration just didn’t care about it, leaving it up to the market. Without a national policy, America was “Overtaken on the Information Superhighway,” the title of Bleha’s 2009 book on the topic. (Here’s a link to read Bleha’s 2005 article from Foreign Affairs.)


The situation is even worse now, according to the newest statistics on high-speed Internet access by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). For example, 18 countries have faster broadband download speeds than the U.S. does. The top five are Japan, Korea, Finland, and the Netherlands.


Does ‘Net speed really matter?

High-speed access offers huge productivity and quality-of-life gains, argues Bleha. Half of Japan’s workforce telecommutes, courtesy of fast Internet pipes. The Japanese use high-speed Internet to optimize energy usage in homes and monitor medical conditions. High-speed lets medical doctors in the U.S. supervise operations in Saudi Arabia, but they can’t do the same here.

So, it really does matter.

Some economic stimulus money has been directed toward broadband access—but only time will tell if it’s too little, too late.


What’s your feeling about high-speed access? Should we place a higher priority on it?


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