by Michael Ho

Filed Under:
cyberattack, estonia, internet

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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  1. identicon
    Alfred E. Neuman, 25 Jan 2008 @ 5:44pm

    what the world would be like

    from above:
    "... what the world would be like if the internet was taken away somehow,"

    I don't think we have to wait too long to find out.
    Big $$ and Big Politics are drooling at the mouth, it wont be long before the internet is not what it is today.
    And it will not be for the better.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Now, 25 Jan 2008 @ 6:19pm



    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Hoeppner, 25 Jan 2008 @ 6:21pm

    looks like I'd need to open up a D&D book, and start working for a different degree.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    ChurchHatesTucker, 25 Jan 2008 @ 6:24pm


    So, since there have been longer outages in areas accustomed to it, is electricity more or less important? Your reasoning confuses me.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    internetville!, 25 Jan 2008 @ 6:40pm

    No, not my job

    If the internet died, the entire city of Redmond(Microsoft) and Bellevue would be out of work, myself included. Start up companies like where I work ( would be no more and god forbid what would all those myspacers do for fun and social networking? actual meet people in public?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Nick, 25 Jan 2008 @ 7:28pm

    It's getting there

    I run an ISP and I can tell you that RIGHT NOW we are revamping our entire marketing strategy to focus on the fact that people feel like broadband internet access is a utility, not a luxury.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Jan 2008 @ 12:32am

    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...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    mike allen, 26 Jan 2008 @ 1:33am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Berhane Sebhatu, 26 Jan 2008 @ 3:21am

    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."

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Michael Evans, 26 Jan 2008 @ 6:25am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Tierce, 26 Jan 2008 @ 1:28pm

    another example

    Another example (albeit not completely) would be Pakistan in 2005.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Haywood, 26 Jan 2008 @ 4:36pm

    I voluntarily do without it one day a week

    I just shut all the computers down, TV and radio too, for 24 hours per week. I can hear the clocks tick, the house is so quiet, with all that off. It is a chance to read, get close to my spouse, meditate, & just generally get my head together.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Paul`, 26 Jan 2008 @ 7:42pm

    I hope not

    I hope the internet doesn't get taken down somehow or killed by scattering toll booths at every turn, because then all those social network rejects will stick their pail pastey faces into the daylight and we will be swarmed by the bastards! Society will grind to a holt and there will be depressed youths clogging up the streets!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Ken, 26 Jan 2008 @ 10:47pm

    If an outage of the internet were to happen, there would be less obesity, diabetes, and pre-mature death in general! People would spend more time doing physical activity, And less "sitting there on their fat-asses, staring at the monitor

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Jan 2008 @ 5:53am

    Re: internet changes

    Please use a spell checker before posting.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    Steven, 27 Jan 2008 @ 9:02am


    And what exactly are you doing right now?!


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    dijital, 27 Jan 2008 @ 9:39am

    Re: No, not my job

    Microsoft closing down, myspacers getting *actual* social lives... jeez, what other horrors would the end of the internet bring?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    Charles Darvin, 27 Jan 2008 @ 11:00am

    The Answer

    Mankind Would Adapt. I've seen it happen a few times (wars and such).

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    Wayne Ryan, 27 Jan 2008 @ 1:42pm

    what a waste

    What a waste to read... I did enjoy the comment from Nick "people feel like broadband internet access is a utility, not a luxury." and due to the continued Development of services such as VoIP, One day those people may get there wish. Now what else is there to do on this thing...ah nuts I'm just gonna read a book.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    Gas_gas_gas, 27 Jan 2008 @ 8:31pm

    Re: a nesecity?

    I did without a phone of any kind for more than a year as a college professor. I had no Internets access at home, either.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. identicon
    Squegie, 28 Jan 2008 @ 1:59pm


    You're forgetting about TV, which was causing those kinds of problems long before the Internet came around.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. identicon
    4-80-sicks, 31 Jan 2008 @ 5:54pm

    now we find out

    How does this story look after today's news?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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