We Need the Next Internet--Now

Back in 2002 I wrote a column titled "It's time for next Internet." In that column I bemoaned the fact that we were still stuck with an aging Internet infrastructure and urged more progress in next-generation Internet initiatives such as IPv6 and Internet2. At that time, while I was unhappy with the progress of these initiatives, I was pretty sure of one thing: By the end of 2008, we would definitely have made significant progress toward a new Internet infrastructure. Boy, did that guess turn out to be wrong. In the six-plus years since I wrote that column, advancement toward a new Internet has been glacial, at best. Come to think of it, given global warming, glaciers are probably moving faster than next-gen Internet initiatives.

Jim RapozaBack in 2002 I wrote a column titled "It's time for next Internet." In that column I bemoaned the fact that we were still stuck with an aging Internet infrastructure and urged more progress in next-generation Internet initiatives such as IPv6 and Internet2.

At that time, while I was unhappy with the progress of these initiatives, I was pretty sure of one thing: By the end of 2008, we would definitely have made significant progress toward a new Internet infrastructure.

Boy, did that guess turn out to be wrong.

In the six-plus years since I wrote that column, advancement toward a new Internet has been glacial, at best. Come to think of it, given global warming, glaciers are probably moving faster than next-gen Internet initiatives.

Sure, Internet2 is more common than before in universities and government labs, but few of the rest of us have ever even used Internet2. And adoption of IPv6 standards is so slow that sometimes it appears to be moving backward.

And this is a really sad development for all of us. When I wrote that 2002 column, I said that everyone needed the advances that a next-generation Internet would bring. And now we need them even more.

I'm sure some of you are thinking that, given all of the problems we are facing with the economy right now, the last thing we need to worry about is getting a faster and more secure Internet. But I think the current economic situation means we need the advantages more than ever.

Think about it: This would be an Internet where data transfer is measured in gigabytes, not megabytes; where phishing and fraud and other security hacks are much harder to pull off; and where advanced applications and enterprise functionality like storage is much more feasible.

Wouldn't that spur a whole lot of innovation and economic growth?

Of course, the problem is that, with the current infrastructure, there is almost no incentive for the major providers to provide next-gen capabilities. They look at the cost, figure out that a next-gen Internet won't bring them any more money, and decide to stick with what they have.

And while the government is spending hundreds of billions of dollars to bail out failed financial companies, it would be hard to get it to spend even a fraction of that to push for a new Internet infrastructure.

But just as the old federal highways and construction programs helped bring the country out of the Depression, a next-generation information superhighway could help bring us out of this downturn.

What's the option? I guess we could let things continue as they are, with the Internet infrastructure seen as a simple utility. But we've seen how well that's worked out, where advanced computers and other new systems run on an electrical grid infrastructure that hasn't changed since the 1960s and is costing us dearly in energy efficiency.

To me, the cost of upgrading everyone to a next-generation Internet is nothing compared with the benefits that it would bring for every person and business.

So, to paraphrase from the end of my old column: Where's my next Internet? I think it's really about time for it now.