Where Does The Internet Rank As A Utility?

from the air-water-food-shelter dept

Network World has written up a somewhat interesting article speculating on what the world would be like if the Internet was taken away somehow, asking various “futurists” what the ramifications would be. Fortunately, most of the respondents don’t see such a thing happening — unless a major catastrophic disaster occurred in which losing the Internet would be the least of our worries. But from there, they go on to predict the failure of web-based businesses such as eBay, Google and then just about any business that processes credit cards in a modern way. The futurists also discuss how society has become dependent on offshoots of the Internet, citing examples such as people’s addiction to email, online dating and MMORPGs.

None of the predictions are particularly surprising, but the story does bring up the question of how vital the Internet is (or isn’t, depending on your point of view). A couple examples come to mind where the Internet has been shut down temporarily. In mid-2007, the tactics of cyberwarfare were demonstrated against Estonia. After those cyberattacks, though, attention focused more on who was responsible rather than on the damage, since the actual effects to the country were pretty minor given that the interruptions only lasted a few hours, and not days or weeks. Closer to home, there was the 2003 power outage in the Northeast — but that was electricity, not just the Internet. So based on these examples, it seems like the Internet isn’t quite as important as water, gas or electricity, but perhaps it could be gaining on the power grid. Additionally, it’s reassuring to know that futurists aren’t projecting a ‘Max Headroom’ dystopia where telecommunications are more important than Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

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Comments on “Where Does The Internet Rank As A Utility?”

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Anonymous Coward says:

i think its way too early for us to be devastated by a sudden “disappearance” of the Internet.

if we went back in time and asked same question about electricity after it had been available for the public for a bit more than 20 years, they probably wouldn’t have thought it was a big deal either. Ask that about electricity today you will get a different answer…

mike allen says:

internet changes

over the years the internet has changed. It was fre for to give opinions and say wht we thought for friends and collegues to keep in contact EMAIL. ok we can still do that here on this site eor example for opinions. as for email well after i got rid of the viagra and increase the size of your d**k spam i may have 20 or 30 mails of the 300 or so i want to read. and ads on every site for some big company which block out what i want to read. the government want everyone here to have internet great but all i here on the radio is government properganda. eat this dont do that so will the internet become a tool for them and not for us. i say the internet isnt what it was ment to be so perhaps on that it has already gone. we should take it back before these idiots control everything.

Berhane Sebhatu (user link) says:

Ultimate Utility

Hear hear Alfred E. Neuman

It will only be a matter of time when polticians take over the net.

Some good news from ‘The Economist’ is that technology and I personally think the internet has become a utility for the modern world by spreading ideas, which leads to growth to the world economy.

“Technology in its broadest sense—the flow of new ideas—is the only way of getting growth rates up to 5-10% a year, the rate which enables poor countries to catch up with the West.”


Michael Evans (profile) says:

The Internet is Phone's Successor, anyone who thin

The subject pretty much says my opinion flat out. The Internet does for our thinking machines what the phone did for our speaking abilities.

Except that our thinking machines can send anything from quick notes to whole books, videos, or even the plain old voice communications. Only now the marginal cost of everything is rushing towards zero due to the successful tracking of moore’s law to this point making the thinking machines at every node ever cheaper and ever more efficient at using the tubes of glass connecting them.

It has also because of the very nature of it being an inter-network directly benefited from that same progression making processing and storage at any given leaf node very much larger and less expensive at the same time. Geometrically growing the value of the network. While those same rates of change might not so easily continue, at the very least cost should go a bit lower and there’s at least a bit of very likely progress to be squeezed out of the existing manufacturing processes for all of those parts.

Thus, it already has surpassed phone service as a need. It may not be vital to basic survival in general, but it is vital to being an integrated unit within society. Just look at the trends between POTS, Data services, and Cell phones. Cell phones only win out because they’re so portable and still (often) less expensive then the more powerful thinking machines for network access.

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