Microsoft’s stock price went in the toilet the other day because they missed their earnings forecast and said they were going to invest something like $2 billion into various technologies to make them more web based.
Microsoft is betting that high speed access WILL become as universal as electricity and as universal as the water that runs out of your faucet.
It took them a while to come to this but now they are full steam ahead.
The tragic part is that telecom and cable companies are positioning themselves to make even more of a killing.
For Microsoft’s services like Live Mail and Messenger to really take off they need high speed access and it, in my view, isn’t being laid fast enough.
To most of us cell phone signals are a given but when you look at those coverage maps all of America is NOT covered. If a wireless technology cannot cover this country what makes us or Microsoft for that matter, think that high speed access will be?
The backbone companies of the Internet. Those who physically provide the service like Comcast, Sprint, AT&T, Qwest, Verizon, and Time Warner are not going fast enough. Why? They’re a for profit business and laying high speed lines takes time and money and the return on their investment is not there yet.
Which brings me to my point, why are THEY the ones doing it?
It seems to me that some sort of cooperative between the private sector and the federal government would allow high speed access to be rolled out more expeditiously. See telecom and cable companies have no problem laying down lines in urban areas, the infrastructure is more or less already in place AND there are a great deal of customers willing to pay. But in the rural areas, places like Montana or rural Georgia, there are is not a great customer base the ROI is not there. This is where the Federal and State governments step in. They give do some kind of carrot-on-the-stick bit to get these Internet backbone companies to build out into rural areas.
It brings services to these areas. Kids can learn remotely, doctors can visit patients virtually, and commerce can keep moving forward and who knows what else.
I hate getting the rich richer but in this case we may have no choice because in the end, it is better to do that then to let the digital divide delve any deeper.