Sunday, November 23, 2008

A Flood is Coming

A deluge of internet use is about to hit the United States in the coming months. While the world was watching the election the FCC set in motion a chain reaction that will open the floodgates of high speed internet access. It has been repeatedly pointed out recently that the US is trailing other developed countries in terms of high speed internet access per inhabitant also called broadband penetration. However, if technology is quick enough on the uptake this lag should be overcome in the near future. When I was a child our family had television reception only through the "antenna." We received ABC, CBS, NBC, and PBS. That was it. All the remaining channels were white fuzz. On November 4th 2008 the FCC voted to open these so called "white spaces" for high speed internet access nationwide! What does this mean? It means watch out because Comcast, Time Warner, Verizon, AT&T, and the lots of communications big wigs are going to be acting like grumbling giants having their precious' taken from them. I don't know if these large telecom companies will have a head start in offering internet service through the giant wireless towers once designated solely for television signals. What I do know is that people will finally be able to simply purchase internet access alone. Gone will be the days of getting swindled into paying for basic cable or a phone line just because one wants internet access. This will bring the web to more households than ever before. Whole counties will become like coffeehouse "hot spots." Accompanying this flood of access will be a flood of usage and this will hopefully end any bureaucratic opacity the Bush administration has held onto for the last eight years. The CEO of Google, Eric Schmidt, discusses with Ariana Huffington what increased internet use has done for politics and will continue to do to keep government honest. The age of citizen-fact-checkers is upon us. May we all stay skeptical and do our homework.

Amy Goodman at Democracy Now had the wherewithal to report on this momentous vote by the FCC despite being drowned-out by the signal to noise ratio of this year's historic election. She talks here with Timothy Karr of the media reform group Free Press.

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