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Creative Disruption
Creative Disruption is a continuing series examining the impact of constantly accelerating technology on the world around us. These changers normally happen under our personal radar until we find that the world as we knew it is no more.  

Questions For The Candidates

By John F. McMullen

So, now, Hillary’s in – and we have Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Rand Paul on the Republican side with Jeb Bush, Lindsey Graham, and possibly Mike Huckabee, Chris Christie, and (shudder) Donald Trump to follow. On the Democratic side, Martin O’Malley and Jim Webb may attempt to forestall a Hillary coronation while Bernie Sanders and even Elizabeth Warren remain as potential wild cards.
How recounting this political news, no matter how interesting (or uninteresting) fits into a column that deals with the impact of technology in our lives?
I think that it is apparent to some of us that our on-going economic well-being, as well as our quality of life is tied in large part with the technology decisions that we, as a society, make for the future. It would be well then to have some understanding of the candidates on these issues. The following, therefore, is a summary of some of the major issues that we face in this area. I hope that readers will examine the issues and quiz their representatives or the candidates themselves about their positions. It is important to not accept platitudes such as “we are the world leaders in technology,” “we can stand up to any challenge,” “our free market system will always prevail,” etc. as answers. These answers will only be correct if we take some positive action on the issues.
Let’s begin with this issue (subsequent columns will address others of the many topics which should be addressed) -- Most agree that a secure high-speed Internet providing connection for business, education, and government service is essential to our on-going success as a nation. Yet, according to Akamai Technologies’ “2013 State of the Internet,” the United States stands eleventh in the world in average connection speed for the country’s users (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_Internet_connection_speeds#Akamai_2014_rankings) behind South Korea, Hong Kong, Switzerland, Sweden, the Netherlands, Ireland, Czech Republic, Singapore, and Finland. According to the report, “the fastest average download data rate was measured at 23 Mbit/s in South Korea, which is over 40% faster than the next ranked country, Japan, with 12.9 Mbit/s. South Korea's speed is almost six times faster than the world average of 3.8 Mbit/s, and more than twice as fast as the United States at 10 Mbit/s. 100 Mbit/s service is the average standard in urban South Korean homes and the country has rolled out 1Gbit/s (1,000 Mbit/s) connections nationwide, which cost $20 per month, approximately 263 times faster than the world average and 100 times faster than the average speed in the United States.” That’s right, 100 times faster! Throughout the world, all involved with technology are looking for ways to speed up the Internet. From these statistics, it is easy to see that we have a long way to go.
Further, and just as troubling for a country that understands the need for computers in every home for education, business, recreation, and, most important, just to keep up with the technology, the United States, according to figures from the World Bank is twenty-fifth in number of Internet users per hundred people (there are actually only twenty-three countries ahead of us; the entity slightly ahead of us, perhaps adding insult to injury, is all of North America as a whole). The top 30 in population penetration follow.

Country Name

2013 Internet Users per 100

 

Iceland

96.5468

Bermuda

95.3

Norway

95.0534

Sweden

94.7836

Denmark

94.6297

Andorra

94

Netherlands

93.9564

Liechtenstein

93.8

Luxembourg

93.7765

Finland

91.5144

Monaco

90.7

Bahrain

90

Faeroe Islands

90

United Kingdom

89.8441

United Arab Emirates

88

Switzerland

86.7

Japan

86.25

Canada

85.8

Qatar

85.3

Korea, Rep.

84.77

North America

84.36047388

United States

84.2

Germany

83.9614

Australia

83

New Zealand

82.78

Belgium

82.1702

France

81.9198

Obviously, penetration is important in ascertaining the technological literacy of a country but another very important number is the total number of users in a country – because Asia, and China in particular are over whelming us. According to an excellent site, “Internet Live Stats” (http://www.internetlivestats.com/internet-users/), the United States is second to China in its total number of Internet users. This sounds very good until we take note that China has 641,601,070 users or 21.97% of the world’s Internet users while the second-place United States has 279,834,232 or 9.58%. Additionally, all of Asia taken collectively has 48.4% with the Americas (North, Central and South) having 21.8% (Europe – 19% and Africa 9.8%).
We, of course, can never catch China in the number of users but our stated goal should be to have world-class connectivity for all our citizens. One only has to look at the nations listed above to realize that those ahead of us are not of one particular economic system. There are capitalist, communist, and socialist countries – there are democracies and authoritarian countries – so we certainly can’t blame our position on capitalism or a democratic form of government. My take on it is, rather, that our position is due to a lack of foresight and will, as well as a lack of understanding by most of our political leaders.
We must first look at the role of government in the development of an acceptable network. This discussion has long been a dividing one between our major political parties but it seems to me that it does have to be. The role of the government can be as a direct actor or as a provider of tax credits to businesses providing the service. The credits would go to both companies doing re-cabling of the main infrastructure and to the individual cable companies, “Telco’s,” and Internet Service Providers who would have to upgrade their systems.
There can also be a competitive element involved. Some municipalities are offering high-speed service directly to their citizens but a number of states, attempting to preserve the cable and Telco monopolies have, by regulation, prohibited any municipalities from doing so,
Another related issue is whether home computers and Internet connections should have a universal right to service. Educators tell us that children with computers in the home and Internet connections (with proper supervision) do better in school. With the “Gore Tax,” enacted in 1996 (as Section 254 of the Telecommunications Act), a system was put in place for phone bills to be taxed and the proceeds used for, among other things, the wiring of schools and libraries. There is now pressure from Conservative Groups such as the Cato Institute (http://www.cato.org/blog/time-end-gore-tax) to end the tax (in addition to being against these type of taxes and fees, the Institute feels that the procedure is awash in problems).
Just on the issue of the Internet, we should, in my judgment, insure that our candidates are able to cogently explain an informed position on:

These questions are just the tip of the technology iceberg – we have the real questions of government surveillance vs privacy, cyber crime, and continual technological elimination of jobs and displacement of workers – and these are just for starters with each general topic having layers and layers of complexity.
We cannot wait for our candidates to decide it they wish to address these issues. The future of our economy and coming generations depends on the actions that they will take concerning technology. Please make sure that the questions are asked and their answers satisfy you.
Comments on this column to johnmac13@gmail.com
John F. McMullen is a writer, poet, college professor and radio host. Links to other writings, Podcasts, & Radio Broadcasts at www.johnmac13.com, and his books are available on Amazon.
© 2015 John F. McMullen  


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-iOtRlDbzQ
http://www.cnn.com/2015/04/01/politics/indiana-religion-law-text/
http://www.npr.org/blogs/itsallpolitics/2015/04/01/395613897/sorting-fact-from-fiction-from-politics-on-the-indiana-law
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/04/01/indiana-religious-freedom_n_6984156.html
http://www.buzzfeed.com/davidmack/connecticut-governor-lifts-indiana-travel-ban-over-religious#.njYAEjXnK
http://www.politico.com/story/2015/04/bobby-jindal-indiana-religious-freedom-law-116672.html

 

 

 

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