The web has been a transformational technology over the past fifty some-odd years. From ARPANET to AOL, it has spread across our economic, social, and political landscape. Just in the past ten years, businesses such as Google and Facebook have become household names. Socially we are more connected than at any point in our history, and it’s only increasing; when we launch our Facebook account, or retweet our latest concert pictures, we are wholly exchanging with another at a faster rate, generating mountains of data, creating new opportunities for entrepreneurs across the globe.
But as we stand at this critical point there is still much in question: what is the future of the Internet? Is it open and accessible, racing across boundaries of State and culture, between filters and through established modes of communication? Or is it closed and monitored, sectioned off between those with capital and those without? The crucial answer has yet to be determined, but powerful forces will not remain at bay.
Today, the race for the entire gambit is playing out ever second, of every day, and there’s no clear end in sight. On one side you have moguls of telecom and media, who only see benefits from increased privatization of the Internet’s core protocol, which is to say they argue in support of a tiered Internet, where principles of supply and demand play out in a market based system of “quality services,” giving those with the largest cash accounts access to the fastest routes. On the other side you have the disciples of a new media, new business, new data, who recognize and respect the openness that has allowed for the flourishing of one-thousand business plans. Clearly someone will win out, but what does it look like?
The simple antidote is choice; but where there is choice, there is also competition, which isn’t something established players necessarily care for. But the decision will have to be made in one way or another, because large amounts of moolah are on the side-lines, waiting for the quail to get spooked. The choice has to be a matter of policy, the ability for new players to enter the broadband market will determine the future of the web. If it’s not LightSquared, it’ll be someone else; and if not them, then on to the next one. We will get there. But it doesn’t have to get messy, it doesn’t have to go the way of China, India, or Iran. Some how though, I think everything will turn out ok.