Internet is a basic human right
To the editor:
I believe that the Internet should be an egalitarian international global resource. It should be as ubiquitous as air. Internet access should be a basic human right. I know that infrastructure is required to provide such a service and someone needs to pay for it. I began my career at Bell Labs where I advocated for the Internet, but no one at AT&T was interested in the idea because they couldn’t figure out how to bill for service. Instead of identifying and solving such issues, the response from AT&T was to come up with reasons to kill the idea. I moved on to work for more progressive institutions.
Nevertheless, I have seen, first hand, American industry morph into de facto monopolies that are so profit-driven and risk-adverse that they have eliminated their R&D capabilities because their focus is the next quarter’s P&L statement. Period.
Consider the fate of Bell Labs. The telecommunications industry is where innovation goes to die. The American telecommunications industry is currently run by accountants and lawyers and generic fungible managers. They finance campaigns; they hire lobbyists; they secure favorable legislation; they run the standards bodies; they define the technology; they tell the equipment vendors what they will buy and at what price; they hire low-paid contractors to install it. There is absolutely no room for innovation in their business model. They have a strangle hold on the industry and they want to squeeze every last nickel out of it. Enough! The consumer needs representation too. We can pay for our infrastructure without being robbed. There is one very basic technical fact that must be consistently observed in the debate over network neutrality: the intelligence in the Internet lives almost exclusively at the end points. It lives in the host Operating System, not in the plumbing that’s provided by the telecommunications service providers. You already own this technology. This transfer of intelligence is a natural consequence of Moore’s Law and the only reason for fighting network neutrality is profit and the detractors are merely new age robber barons.
Certain types of infrastructure and services are vital for the health of a nation: clean air, clean water, electricity, transportation, health care, education, communication, etc. The Internet is the overarching replacement for the telephone system and it should be treated just like it: Internet service should be ubiquitous and affordable by all. It should be so reliable that service interruptions are rare events, just like plain old telephone service. It is the job of our government to ensure that we all have reliable and affordable Internet service and network neutrality is part of the solution. The FCC is now receiving comments on this issue. If you care about your rights as a consumer, visit their site at www.fcc.gov/comments and register your opinion.