22
Jan
09

America’s Waking Up to the Internet

President Obama speaks of “Change”; he told us of the changes he intended to make in government, he told us how we must sacrifice to make our economic futures better and we as Americans must change to new concepts in technology to improve both ourselves and our country as a whole.

We have to wake up to implementing the Internet in the way it was designed to help us; find jobs, monitor our pensions and money accounts, use it to broaden our education and most of stop treating it as a “toy for kids only.”

An outstanding article by Politico was released today, which I feel drives home the point I’m attempting to make, here are some excerpts:

U.S. must step up broadband adoption

U.S. must step up broadband adoption

U.S. must step up broadband adoption

By MARK MCKINNON & MIKE MCCURRY | 1/22/09 4:48 AM EST

Broadband Internet access has become a welcome part of President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus package, but achieving America’s national goal of broadband for every citizen will require more than investing in infrastructure. Policymakers correctly recognize that broadband creates jobs — some 293,000 for every percentage point increase in adoption, according to a Brookings Institution study.

Broadband also expands individual economic opportunity, but many Americans aren’t yet convinced. Even when neighborhoods have been fully wired for high-speed Internet, millions of Americans still don’t sign up for service. Some can’t afford it. But more than a third who don’t have broadband even when it’s available tell researchers they don’t want or need it.

To be sure, extending the network to areas that currently lack broadband service is a big part of getting our economy back on track. While the data is imprecise, estimates suggest 7 percent to 8 percent of Americans still lack access to broadband. That shortfall, which hits rural America hardest, is why most experts agree that we need some form of national broadband fund to make sure the physical infrastructure for broadband is extended. Still, lack of access to broadband accounts for a relatively small part of the 40 percent of Americans who don’t enjoy high-speed Internet at home. If we really want broadband in every home, we’d better work harder to get people to sign up.

Part of the challenge is digital literacy: helping Americans understand how broadband can connect them to better jobs, health care and education. But if we’re honest, a big demand driver for broadband is entertainment — the ability to enjoy an expanding universe of music, television, movies and games over a fast broadband connection at any time, in any location. Consumers across the income spectrum will enthusiastically embrace new technology when value is clearly recognized.

That is why most Americans subscribe to some form of cable, satellite or Internet-based television service — at twice the average cost of broadband — even though free television is available. And many pay even more for extra programs such as sports and movies. The lesson here: If Americans see the value, they will pay for it.

And Internet entertainment choices are proliferating. America’s creative industry — artists, filmmakers, music labels, and movie and television studios — have made monumental strides in delivering quality content to consumers online, despite threats to their intellectual property. In less than a year, Hulu, a joint venture by NBC Universal and News Corp., has become the Web’s most popular location for viewing advertising-supported television. MySpace Music lets Web users listen to music for free online, and dozens of other sites are exploring new business models for offering television, music, movies and games.

Despite these huge strides, the full range of entertainment content that could be available to online consumers won’t be available until creators can reasonably expect to earn a profit. Massive digital piracy encouraged by a “free culture” ethos — the theory that all information wants to be free — makes that difficult. More importantly, it discourages content creators from taking the risk to invest in the high-quality online entertainment content that will encourage more Americans to join the broadband age.

The connection between content and intellectual property is significant because it offers a clear path to greater broadband adoption — with little cost to the public treasury. The idea that information wants to be free is beguiling, but it’s trumped by today’s economic realities.

And the notion that creators’ work is free for the taking is particularly counterproductive in a tough economic environment, when profits and jobs matter more than ever. IP industries are responsible for 20 percent of U.S. gross domestic product and nearly 40 percent of U.S. economic growth and represent 18 million workers — roughly 13 percent of U.S. employment overall. What’s needed is a careful balance that helps stimulate broadband adoption by providing expanded choices for consumers while also preserving the long-standing rights of creators to their intellectual property.

Protecting intellectual property will not, by itself, deliver broadband nirvana. But if we’re serious about making sure all Americans take advantage of broadband’s opportunities, we should recognize entertainment as one of the most compelling on-ramps to the digital highway. Expanding online entertainment options will make sure Americans have what they want when they get there. But first, we need a broadband strategy that also encourages adoption. It’s a low-cost piece of the puzzle that should be an important part of America’s national broadband strategy.

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