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Blog 14

There are many parallels between the development of the internet today and the development of the telegraph and later the telephone. The U.S government took somewhat differing approaches to its involvement in these new technological developments. The U.S government did not take a large interest in financing or encouraging the adoption of the telegraph and instead left it up to private industry. The Internet, however, was not devised by a individual and was instead a creation of DARPA, the military research branch of the U.S. government. It was early on used to connect research universities and later on began to enter the private sphere with the proliferation of email. Just like the telegrpah in the past, the U.S. government did not take a personal stake in proliferating the internet through goverment run/controlled enterprise and left it up to private companies to build and control the national infrastructure. There was then and still is now strong opposition from certain groups of U.S. citizens to government involvement in business of any kind. Such pressures have contributed to the current situation where the U.S. government oversees the communication infrastructure, rather than actively running and developing it.

To examine the alternative one need only glace across the Atlantic and look at the European nations and their infrastructure. The government exercises much tighter control and there is greater competition between competitors. This is opposed to the U.S where there are typically only a couple large companies that provide phone and Internet in any given area, the winners in the days of more fierce early competition. If the U.S. government had played a more active role in pushing nation-wide adoption of the telegraph, I feel that it would have been adopted early and been available to more consumers much quicker and at lower prices. That is of course assuming the government could run the industry in the interest of the people and not just those running it. Something businesses struggle with no less than government it seems.

To consider what the landscape would look like if the U.S. had done so with the internet, there is no better example than South Korea. The South Korean government took an early and a dedicated stake in the development of its national Internet infrastructure. It pushed ubiquitous coverage and the latest technology associated with it. As a result, South Korea has the fastest Internet speeds of any nation and does have not the digital divide in the U.S. where the urban centers have broadband and rural areas are forced to settle for dial-up. While this may not have been or be the most desirable solution for lining the pockets of the telecommunication companies, I see this as a much better solution for the nation as a whole and the citizens of the U.S.  The South Korean government has recently begun making plans to spread 1Gbs internet around the country when the U.S. can’t even get 1mbs internet to people in Nebraska. I don’t think anyone needs a commentator to tell them who is winning the Internet arms race.

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