Google, it seems, has unveiled a prototype of the new, improved, better and faster internet.
In Kansas City. Well, why not? Excerpt:
The service, known as Google Fiber, will offer residents in selected parts of the metropolitan area in both Kansas and Missouri the option of purchasing the gigabit Internet service for $70 a month or both the Internet and a television service for $120 a month. The TV service, Google said, comes with a Nexus 7 tablet that serves as a remote.
The announcement, made in a plaza on the Kansas-Missouri state line, is Google’s venture into a world of broadband providers who have looked skeptically at the company’s effort. Some have branded it a publicity stunt that will do little to advance the country’s broadband agenda. Typical broadband providers undertake the costly task of providing service to millions of homes, while Google’s prototype will reach far fewer customers – the initial round here is available to about 170,000 homes.
Technology tends to get better, faster and cheaper. The internet has already revolutionized such things as:
1) Business. A big part of my business, maybe as much as a third these days, is carried out from my own home office via email, VPN connections and cloud data services like YouSendIt. And why not? You can’t beat the commute. As this trend grows, and it surely will, imagine the change in morning and evening traffic – in fuel consumption – in air quality.
2) Shopping. One word: Amazon. You can buy anything from old, out of print books to vitamins, to computers, to clothes, to cowboy hats. Ditto for eBay – and add cars to that latter service. You can buy groceries online for delivery in many cities. Order a pizza, shop for a vacation package, buy some digital music – all in seconds. No expensive brick-and-mortar stores to maintain, no checkout clerks, no utility bills; ultimately, those things result in a better deal for consumers.
3) Dating. It’s popular to snicker at online dating services, but many, many people have started loving, satisfying relationships with someone they met online, many of them through service like Match.com.
4) Entertainment. From online games to streaming music to movies, there are a million ways to fill your entertainment hours on the Web.
5) Edumacation. Schools, especially at the college level, are going more and more to an online model. It makes sense; a brick-and-mortar establishment costs millions in utility and maintenance costs. Why not decentralize? Why not have professors lecture from their home offices, with students logging in from their own homes? All the expenses of dorms, travel, all that – gone. Maybe we can even see an end to the sale of worthless degrees in Minority Walrus Polishing and so forth.
That last one may be the most significant; so far. The Information Revolution has only begun, and like the Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions before, it will probably change our lives in ways we can’t yet imagine.
That’s not to say there won’t be some casualties along the way, of course.
Now, from good news to (maybe) bad: Is the U.S. Headed for Recession? Excerpt:
We know growth is painfully slow, and slowing. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke last week suggested that the American job-creation machine is “stuck in the mud.” The economy expanded at a 1.9% annual rate in the first quarter. The second quarter was worse. Analysts expect the government estimate, due Friday, to be between 1% and 1.5% despite a boost from housing and auto sales.
Retail sales have fallen for three months in a row. Consumer confidence is sinking. Manufacturing, which had been vigorous, shows signs of weakening. Government belt-tightening is restraining growth. Europe, which still buys about one-fifth of U.S. exports, is in recession, and the rest of the world is slowing. Drought is sure to push up food prices, pinching consumer spending on other things.
It seem certain that the drought across much of the Midwest is the elephant in the room. Food prices will spike if the crops are bad, and while not everyone needs new laptops, new cars or even new clothes, everyone needs to eat.
Of course, having the Imperial Federal Government adopt policies that favor producers would help, too. American needs to be a nation that makes things; wealth is created, by and large, by the provision of value through effort, and while that can be done through the provision of services (such as my consulting business) it is generally done through the process of taking raw materials and making from them things that others want to buy. We’ve known this at least since Adam Smith.
In the meantime, there’s work to do; and so we return you to your Friday, already in progress.