Social Impact - How successful has the policy been? or...
The government got it right for once!

For the most part it seems the commercialization of the Internet has benefited society as a whole. The way in which the government has carried out its plan for keeping some parts commercial, while still retaining the high-performance sections of the Internet for research purposes is the reason for its success. Aiding research was part of the Internetıs original intent, and by implementing the NREN for this purpose the government is standing by its original plan. By commercializing only part of the Internet the government has not totally caved to the business special interest groups, yet still given them what they wanted. The importance of research over the Internet remains to be a vital part of its plan to develop greater bandwidth capacity that can later be privatized.

The method of developing new Internet technology for research and then turning it over to business also helps to bring solid technology to the commercial Internet. If the Internet was totally commercial there is no way to tell if the best standards would be adopted. Through competitive bidding, the government is giving all technology businesses a chance to have their technology become a standards on the Internet. This not only helps the private sector economically, but it also insures that the best technology will be implemented in any future Internet developments. The standards that are developed under government supervision will benefit society, because when future technology is privatized the standards will have proven themselves in the research community.

Even though the governmentıs actions to commercialize the Internet are largely successful, the commercialization is not a total benefit for society. One question that still must be asked is in regards to if Internet access is really cheaper or more accessible than it might have been under government control. With market forces dictating the price of getting online it is conceivable that the demand for Internet service is driving prices up. Perhaps if the government took care of Internet access for all citizens, prices could be lower and access would be guaranteed. It is not clear that prices would be lower, but it is clear that guaranteed Internet access for all citizens would be a benefit to society. The growing information divide has afforded many of the countryıs more affluent citizens with access, but left many poorer citizens outside of the network. With the growing need for technologically educated workers this has the potential to lock the less fortunate out of the job market. In effect, the information divide may result in a socioeconomic divide. The exclusion of many citizens from the Internet brings questions to the benefit of commercially provided access.

Overall, the government has done the right thing for society by remaining true to the Internet's research roots, while still offering businesses opportunities to expand the Internet for consumers. Society has benefited because not only because the research community has tested the Internet technology before they use it, but also because of the wealth of communication that a commercial Internet offers.

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©2000 John Thomson, Jr