Documentary coverage of IGF-USA by the Imagining the Internet Center

What We Don’t Know About the Future of the Internet – Part II

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2 lee_rainie broadbandLee Rainie, Pew Internet & American Life Project:

What kind of Internet will we have?

Rainie noted the expectation of a “broadband tsunami” but added that “there are two public policy disputes in the realm of Internet architecture where the outcome will determine how widely that tsunami washes over things.”

The two architecture points he illuminated are the broadband issue and the question of how best to make the current Internet architecture more secure and robust, scaling it up to meet escalating needs.

Regarding broadband, he said the latest Pew survey (Sept. 14) shows 77 percent of American adults use the Internet and 63 percent have broadband access at home. This ranks the United States somewhere between 15th and 25th among advanced nations in broadband penetration, depending upon which global study of uptake you choose to cite.

“Whatever the United States’ place in the world rankings,” he said, “it is clear that 27 percent of Americans do not have high-speed connections and there is substantial policy ferment about the best way to bring broadband connections to rural areas and to those with relatively low household incomes.”

Rainie said there is hope in mobile connectivity for closing this digital divide somewhat because the uptake of these devices is more even across regional and economic categories. “But,” he added, there’s a question “about whether phone access to the Internet is as important and as useful as access on computers in terms of experience and personal satisfaction.”

Rainie also touched on the issue of network neutrality, which he described as “whether providers can offer premium media content over their networks and give that content preference to some digital material in exchange for charging higher prices to recoup their investments, or whether all digital material, from e-mails to medical records to high-resolution movies should be treated equally by the network as it currently is.”

When he addressed the future of Internet architecture, Rainie said there are four key problems with the current Internet:

Security: “The ‘start-over’ planners would love to build a new system that would do a better job of authenticating people and their computers in a way that would keep hazards at bay,” he said.

Mobility: “The ‘start-over’ folks hope to create a new system to assign Internet addresses” in the many varied devices in the Internet of things,” he noted.

Instrumentation: “The ‘start-over’ group would like to build something allowing all pieces of the network to have the ability to detect and report emerging problems due to traffic overloads, replicating worms” and other difficulties,” he explained.

Protocols: “These traffic-flow concerns also prompt ‘start-over’ architects to want to structure better traffic routing agreements between Internet service providers that would allow them to collaborate on advance services without compromising businesses,” he said.

-Janna Anderson,


Written by andersj

October 2, 2009 at 3:48 pm

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