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The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Utah should lead U.S. and provide free Wi-Fi

By Aaron Shaddy

The United States, compared to much of the developed world, is far behind in Internet infrastructure. When we look at the progress being made with the Internet in Japan, it becomes clear we are nowhere near as serious about its potential as the Japanese are.

Data provided by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation shows the United States lags considerably behind other industrialized nations. The average Internet speed in Japan is 61 megabits per second. The United States averages 4.8 mb/s, falling behind, among others, Canada (7.6 mb/s), France (17.6 mb/s) and South Korea (45.6 mb/s) as well.

The country that invented the Internet pays more for a lower quality version of it. There is no excuse for this, and we ought to consider more fully the possibility of making investments in our own infrastructure.

Japan has done so. Over the past decade, it has spent millions creating a fiber-optic infrastructure for fast and affordable high-speed Internet. While it might be excessive, it allows for future expansion, permitting the possibility of a more dynamic and innovative Internet.

The United States has made infrastructure investments of immense value in the past8212;Eisenhower’s creation of the Interstate Highway System was a revolutionary step forward for U.S. transportation. This highway system continues to be the envy of the world. We already have a model to work from with television: government airspace, owned in case of an emergency, is leased to networks, and the networks receive revenue from advertising.

Nationally, the Federal Communications Commission has taken some steps in this direction. Proposals have been made for M2Z Networks to provide free wireless Internet nationwide under a set of frequencies mandated by the FCC. There is some tension here8212;some telecoms, such as T-Mobile, have argued that this course of action is unfair. It remains to be seen what will happen, and it might be a long time until we find out.

Some cities have already begun this process. In 2004, Salt Lake City began providing free Internet in several municipal buildings, and there was discussion of providing city-wide Wi-Fi through a service provided by UTOPIA, a municipal fiber-optic network.

“Although some council members expressed an interest in providing the service to city residents, the majority of the council was not willing to accept the financial risk involved (of) $4.1 million per year,” said Jan Aramaki, a policy analyst for the City Council. Furthermore, there was already widespread access for broadband Internet in the city from private companies, leading the council to abandon the proposal.

The state government should consider making the investment. Gov. John Huntsman Jr. has already placed a heavy emphasis on education, such as teaching more Chinese and Arabic in Utah schools. Having the state make an effort in giving cheap and affordable Internet access to everyone would undoubtedly enhance his commendable goals. Internet will be, if it isn’t already, as ubiquitous as roads or TV, and it would serve Utah well to make an investment in what is increasingly a necessity in today’s world.

[email protected]

Aaron Shaddy

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