Digital Roads

Our CEO penned these words back in 2011, and they still ring true today.

Although I never had a passion for history growing up, I always got excited when the curriculum included the Greeks and Romans. Everyone is familiar with the idiom, “All roads lead to Rome,” and perhaps it was this romanticized view of the ancient world that intrigued me. One of the first things I can remember learning in my history courses was the importance of roads for trade between different cultures and the expansion of civilization. Fast forward to the proliferation of automobiles in the 20th century, and roads became more important than ever, enabling mass transportation of people, goods, and ideas at a rate previously unimaginable.

As our networked system of transportation has expanded, so have the rules governing that system. The ever-increasing laws that govern our roadways are a direct result of the greater danger caused by more vehicles and higher speed limits, in addition to ensuring safety and efficiency. Without a regulated traffic system to keep our roads organized, chaos would ensue. Growing up in Los Angeles, I am all too familiar with California’s infamous traffic, which is often caused by a single car not following the rules.

In 2011, our roads are digital. Information can literally travel at the speed of light. We have transformed into a global society, relying on the Internet for instant communication, online retail, social networking, gaming, and crucial information about what’s going on in our world. Laptops, netbooks, cell phones, iPods, gaming consoles, even e-book readers, all have the capability to access the boundless limits of information contained online. Much like the automobile, however, we currently face increasing problems as these devices spread and cause digital traffic jams of music, pictures, and videos.

In his recent State of the Union address, President Obama announced his goal to give 98 percent of all Americans access to high-speed wireless internet, an initiative motivated by the increasing importance of broadband access in order to succeed in our digital age. Like President Eisenhower and his highways, Obama feels the public interest depends on access to these digital roads, but the question of ensuring the infrastructure’s stability remains. Without proper monitoring and prioritization, our broadband access will slow to the pace of our busiest highways on Thanksgiving weekend.

Perhaps bandwidth reform starting at the client level, using currently available tools like packet shaping, is the smartest way forward. After all, if Rome had remained a republic capable of self-regulation, the expression might be, “All URLs lead to Rome.”

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