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Internet Author Richard Wiggins Contemplates the State of the Internet

At a cusp in time, when network neutrality comes to the fore as AT&T (formed anew when SBC acquired leftover assets of the former Ma Bell), Internet author Richard Wiggins contemplates the state and the future of the Internet.

Author and speaker Richard Wiggins speculated on the state of the Internet as he celebrated his 50th birthday in Key West, Florida last week.  “Tim-Berners Lee, the co-inventor of the World Wide Web, told me circa 1995 that ‘In order to build the Web, we had to assume the underlying structure of the Internet.  Once we could assume the Web, then you ain’t seen nothing yet.’”

Wiggins muses “Have we achieved that moment seminally foreseen by Berners-Lee?  Can we ‘assume the Web’”?

Even while celebrating a milestone birthday in Key West, Wiggins contemplated the arc of Internet history.  Guests could certainly “assume the Web” at the Southernmost Hotel, thanks to their Wi-Fi service – functional, albeit flaky at times.  While passing time at the hotel pool, he needed to look up the phone number for a potential co-author.  His Palm Treo 650 with EV-DO capability effortlessly retrieved her Brandeis contact information.

Only two years earlier, on a trip to the same locale, he’d used Verizon’s wireless Internet  offering, their 1xRTT service, as he added to his blog, Little did he know that that that blog entry would be featured in The New York Times, the International Herald Tribune, and elsewhere worldwide, thanks to an article by renowned author Katie Hafner headlined “For Some, the Blogging Never Stops.” Nor could he have foreseen Verizon and others would challenge Wi-Fi hot spots with EV-DO broadband offerings.

Wiggins observes “Even in 2006, many do not realize that the Internet is largely built on the underlying structure of the existing global telephone network.  Whether you connect to the Internet via your cell phone, via a Wi-Fi connection at a coffee shop or hotel, over a DSL line, or over your cable modem – you are largely depending on the good graces of telephone companies.  Beware when SBC buys AT&T and then BellSouth, reconstituting a huge fraction of the original AT&T.”

A frequent traveler, Wiggins notes that in-room Wi-Fi Internet access is becoming de rigueur.  Yet many hotels offer execrable service, or charge unconscionable fees.  “Hotels would do well to offer broadband Internet as freely and as effectively as they offer in-room coffee” he observes.

“Imagine when we can truly ‘assume the Web’ as its inventor contemplated over a decade ago – imagine when the Web works anywhere, anytime, over any device, with no muss, no fuss” Wiggins ruminates.

Wiggins (aka Rich Wiggins and Richard W. Wiggins) wrote one of the early Internet books, “The Internet for Everyone: A Guide for Users and Providers” (McGraw-Hill, 1994) and writes for various national publications.  His musings on Internet issues have appeared in the Washington Post, Forbes, The New York Times, and the Lansing State Journal.  He comments on technology monthly for WKAR, the NPR station operated by Michigan State University in East Lansing.

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