What Does The Theory of the Information Age Require?
For the Information Age economy to come into its own as a full-blown new economy, two things are required:
- Telecommunications networks must be able to deliver true “broadband” transmissions from end-to-end
- There must be universal access to computers
To achieve these things, humans must – first of all – acknowledge that the Information Age is a true new age and look at the manner in which it is functioning in order to understand the new “rules of the game” of that new age. As we can readily observe by the state of the world now – a world in which we’ve let the Information Age develop on its own – if we do not choose to understand and control the new economic, social, and technological forces that have been unleashed, we will only bring ourselves problems.
Despite the fact that humans have already seen dramatic change as a result of the coming of the Information Age and enjoyed many of its benefits, the truth remains that the technological foundation for this new economy must be completed to see greatest advantage. For instance, in the United States, we have unbelievably powerful networks capable of handling vast quantities of data for use in applications, but we have virtually no broadband on and off ramps for our “Information Superhighway.” And, sadly, no one currently wants to deal with that issue. After all, we can handle all those applications on the amazing wireless networks now in existence.
But few have the courage to point out that radio spectrum is fixed in quantity and the applications are beginning to devour radio spectrum to deliver these services and we may eventually have still another new crisis when it fills up to the limit.
“Broadband” is a very important word to understand relative to the coming of the Information Age.
What does “broadband” transmission capability really mean? It means that data of unlimited quantity can be transmitted back and forth between interconnected computers very rapidly. That capability is the key to all the new applications that will come into being, and the basis/foundation of the new economic structure.
This can be accomplished either by landlines, preferably of optical fiber cable, which permits unlimited bandwidth (true broadband), which can provide very high rates of transmission, or it can be delivered on a wireless basis.
BOOM, then BUST, went the “dot.coms.” The problems that can arise if this technological foundation is not in place can be illustrated by what happened during the so-called “dot.com” boom around the year 2000 in the United States. At that time, the long distance networks were all rebuilt upon the basis of optical fiber, which is a digital transmission medium (the “natural tongue” of computers). The local networks for distributing those telecommunications transmissions within cities and communities had also been rebuilt to deliver broadband transmissions. Only one thing was missing – the high speed connection going from the local network running by at the curb to the home or business premises.
What was in place instead of fiber optic cable to connect the home or business premises to the local network – and what is still in place for the most part – were an archaic pair of twisted copper wires that were never designed for broadband transmission, but were merely designed to handle low speed analog telephone voice calls.
The result was that the huge optical fiber broadband “pipes” – think of them as being as large as an oil pipeline – could not deliver the dot.com services to customers because the twisted copper pair could not handle such transmissions. They were more like two small cocktail straws. And if the dot.coms could not reach their customers, the businesses were not viable and had no means to make money. So the dot.com companies died quickly.
While a transitional technology called DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) was invented that helped increase the transmission capabilities of a twisted copper pair, it was still more like enlarging the transmission “pipe” size to that of drinking straws, which is nowhere near true broadband, which is like an oil pipeline.
What is needed for the Information Age economy to become a true new economy are huge transmission pipes, end-to-end, so that massive amounts of data can flow between computers to enable the new businesses that we will come to depend upon. They MUST have such transmission capability as their basis to provide services.
This is what most telecommunications network service providers need to complete in most nations across the world. And if the world wants to gain the benefits of the Information Age, rather than struggling as we are in the transition we are in, that work needs to be completed.
Wireless broadband is highly popular and is an excellent solution for underdeveloped nations, inasmuch as a nation can join the Information Age rapidly by using wireless transmission technology to enable Citizens to access and use broadband.
But there is – at least at the moment – the “Catch-22” mentioned earlier. While there is some basic research that is promising regarding expanding the carrying capacity of wireless, the radio spectrum used for wireless broadband currently remains finite in amount. If wireless networking is applied as the only solution, and a landline optical fiber broadband network is not developed and put into place, there may one day be a major problem when all the radio frequency is “used up,” being completely full, and subscribers will not be able to access the network whenever they wish. The Theory of the Information Age, if it is to come into full force, requires that this situation be fixed
In sum, what The Theory of the Information Age requires to complete the transition into a true new age are these:
- Universal availability of end-to-end broadband transmission capability so that you and your fellow Citizens can fully benefit from the coming of the Information Age.
- The means by which every Citizen – wealthy, middle class, working class, and poor – will have access to computers in order to participate in the economy and society of the Information Age.
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- The next step in building the Information Age: Moving to broadband - TelephonyOnline, June 5, 2002
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