More than a decade ago Americans were captivated by the sheer novelty of the Internet. Today, the Internet has emerged into an essential and ubiquitous part of life.
Accessible in homes, offices and even over mobile phones, the Internet has penetrated almost every aspect of our daily lives -- as an efficient way to buy books, pay bills, make travel reservations, download music and follow the news -- so that we expect it to be available wherever we go.
Another revolutionary change is about to transform our lives. This one is about Internet speed and capacity. It's called broadband.
The "original" Internet that emerged in the 1990s was an interconnected system of old, copper and coaxial cables called "narrowband." Narrowband is the telecommunications equivalent of unpaved country roads. As long as there weren't too many people using the narrowband Internet, and as long as they were transmitting small files, the narrowband Internet worked just fine.
However, the flow of electronic information has grown dramatically. Internet traffic has increased hundreds-fold, with huge data and video files being up- and downloaded all the time. Telecommunications companies have raced to keep up with the demand by laying thousands of miles of new fiber-optic broadband "highway" for all that data to travel across.
These advanced high-speed fiber networks are essential for economic growth. Every sector of our economy, from agriculture to finance, depends on access to modern broadband information systems. Just as we built interstate highways to meet the demand for automobile travel, we now must invest infiber deployment to carry the ever-increasing electronic traffic, a vitalelement in an information-based economy.
Yet, in New York, communications companies are still being regulated by laws written in another era. While other states have adopted policies that spur investment and expansion of their broadband infrastructure, New York has yet to face the future.
It's time for New York to move ahead or its economy will lag. Albany can help by fostering private investment in a next-generation broadband. A fully operational broadband network is worth hundreds of millions of dollars a year to the state's economy. That translates into more jobs, better schools, a cleaner environment through telecommuting and improved communications for law enforcement and first responders.
It's time that legislators and policymakers act in concert with communications companies to accelerate deployment of high-speed broadband technology. Anything less will drive New Yorkers from the information highway to the service road.
Mitchell L. Moss is Henry Hart Rice Professor of Urban Policy and Planning at New York University's Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. He has served in the past as a consultant to Verizon and other telecommunications firms.1