Bruce P. Mehlman
The Internet Innovation Alliance is a broad-based coalition of business and non-profit organizations that aim to ensure every American, regardless of race, income or geography, has access to the critical tool that is broadband Internet. The IIA seeks to promote public policies that support equal opportunity for universal broadband availability and adoption so that everyone, everywhere can seize the benefits of the Internet - from education to health care, employment to community building, civic engagement and beyond.
In the digital world, data is measured in bytes. A single digital character, a letter or number, is a single byte. A typewritten page is about 2,000 bytes, or two kilobytes, and a small, low-resolution image is about 100,000 bytes, or 100 kilobytes. There are about 5 million bytes, or 5 megabytes, in the complete works of Shakespeare, and a pickup truck full of books might amount to one billion bytes, or a gigabyte. One billion of those book-filled pickup trucks, or one billion gigabytes, is an exabyte.
The term “exaflood,” coined by Bret Swanson of Progress & Freedom Foundation, refers to the growing torrent of data on the Internet. By 2010, Internet users worldwide could produce as much as 988 exabytes of data. The Internet was famously overbuilt during the 1990s, but much of that capacity is being used now or soon will be. A shortage of bandwidth will slow down service for everybody, possibly causing Internet brownouts or service interruptions.
The good news is that with investment and wise public policy, we can upgrade our broadband networks to meet the challenge of the coming “exaflood,” ensuring that all Americans have the opportunity to enjoy and benefit from everything the Internet has to offer.
Electricity reached one-quarter of Americans 46 years after its introduction. Telephones took 35 years and televisions 26 years. Already, in just six years, broadband has reached 25 percent penetration, according to McKinsey & Co.
Today there is much praise for YouTube, MySpace, blogs and all the other democratic digital technologies that are allowing you and me to transform media and commerce. But these infant Internet applications are at risk, thanks to the regulatory implications of “network neutrality.” Proponents of this concept—including Democratic Reps. John Dingell and John Conyers, and Sen. Daniel Inouye, who have ascended to key committee chairs—are obsessed with divvying up the existing network, but oblivious to the need to build more capacity.