The New Internet

Google has just announced that it is going to develop an ultra high speed Internet system and install it into 50,000 to 500,000 homes.  It will be more than 100 times faster than what we have today.  The communities to be served will be selected on the basis of community interest and a variety of other factors.  I just sent an email to our community organization requesting them to consider making an application.  It will be interesting to see if they take up the cause.  If you would like high speed service yourself, you could try and get your community to make the same request.

On a related subject, I heard part of a radio interview with Jim Lewis of the Center for Security and International Studies on the subject of Internet security and reliability.  There are a number of conflicting concepts at play here.  The founders of the Interet, after the DARPA got it going, were people of the 60s and 70s, and that gave rise to the concept of a self-organized system, free of government controls, free to the user, in which everyone is equal.  It has performed amazingly well, as far as I can tell.

However, business is becoming increasingly dependent on the security and reliability of the Internet.  Anonymity is great for the casual user, but there are downsides.  Malevolent hackers are difficult to identify.  Companies need to know who they are talking to.  As a result, security techniques have been tacked onto the system.  And then there is the problem of overall reliability.  Denial of service attacks occur frequently around the world, immobilizing the system being attacked.  There’s no reason to believe that a sophisticated attack on major portions of the Internet would not succeed and bring down  significant portion of it.  Let’s face it, it happens by accident with major Internet service and content providers.  Speaking of attacks, the anonymity of the Internet makes it difficult to track down malefactors.  Are we more afraid of “big brother” or digital terrorists?

So the question is, what to do about it?  The telephone system grew like Topsy to begin with, and so did our system of roads and highways.  But now they are highly organized and controlled, in the case the telephone system, by private industry, and in the case of our highway system, by government.  Maybe we need a highly managed and controlled system with less anonymity and more security.  Would that result in a better system?  Maybe, but maybe not.

It will be interesting to see how these issues will be handled in the coming years.

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