Thursday, August 28, 2003

The Future of Broadband

I am positive on broadband. Here's my logic.

SARs, the August blackout of 50M American and Canadians, today's blackout in the London Underground, 9/11, snipers in the Washington, DC area all highlight the fragility of modern society.

Current fiscal policies are refocusing government spending away from infrastructure. Even important infrastructure like education and roads are being underinvested in.

Education has to date not really benefited from reengineering of its educational processes. Road and bridge maintenance programs are major problems. And we have population and car growth.

The inevitable result is transportation gridlock and worsening education.

Broadband is not a panacea, but it does have the following characteristics:

1. It has become very inexpensive and is likely to continue to do so.

2. Communication can substitute for travel. I see nothing but growth for video conferencing. The first spate of digital cameras, and cell phones with cameras is just the first step.

3. It's cheaper to make it easier to communicate than it is to try and build more roads or make flying safer.

So, if you are governments, people are going to figure out that encouraging broadband makes a whole lot of sense if you want to minimize travel and create redundancy in a complex society.

Remember, it's no coincidence that the precursor to the Internet, the ARPANET was designed to provide a network that could survive a nuclear attack. Terrorism may not be nuclear, but the distributed network approach still makes sense.

And then of course there is the issue of decentralized micro-electricity generation via windpower, solar, fuel cells, etc. It seems to make a lot of sense in an uncertain world.

As to the impact of broadband on education, let's look at that in another column.

Alistair Davidson

No comments: