In a broad account accessible to generalist and specialist alike, the authors—social scientists as well as technologists—address the current national debate about the development of a National Information Infrastructure. They locate the debate in its historical context and outline a bold vision of an open communications infrastructure that will cut through the political gridlock that threatens this "information highway."
The authors detail what is wrong with the political process on National Information Infrastructure policymaking and assess how different media systems (telecommunications, radio, television broadcasting, and the like) were originally established, spelling out the technological assumptions and organizational interests on which they were based and showing why the old policy models are now breaking down. This analysis leads logically to a policy proposal for a reformed regulatory structure that builds and protects meaningful competition but abandons its role as arbiter of tariffs and definer of the public interest.
Internet telephony is the integration and convergence of voice and data networks, services, and applications. The rapidly developing technology can convert analog voice input to digital data, send it over available networked channels, and then convert it back to voice output. Traditional circuit-switching networks such as telephone lines can be used together with packet-switching networks such as the Internet, thereby merging communication modes such as email, voice mail, fax, pager, real-time human speech, and multimedia videoconferencing into a single integrated system. Because Internet telephony allows the interchangeable and seamless use of phones, computers, personal digital assistants, TV cables, wireless, and Web technology, myriad combinations become possible.
The transformation of the Internet from a network application using phone lines to a general communications infrastructure through which voice is but one of many data types offered has a wide impact on applications, architectures, networks, economics, public policy, industry structures, regulation, and service providers. This book explores these and other issues, and considers future scenarios as Internet telephony continues to alter the communications landscape.
Contributors David D. Clark, Daniel Fryxell, William Lehr, Brett Leida, Terrence P. McGarty, Lee W. McKnight, Philip Mutooni, Husham Sharifi, Marc S. Shuster, Marvin Sirbu, David Tennenhouse, Kanchana Wanichkorn, Jonathan Weinberg.
More than fifty years ago, Joseph Schumpeter stated that processes intrinsic to a capitalist society produce a "creative destruction," whereby innovations destroy obsolete technologies, only to be assaulted in turn by newer and more efficient rivals. This book asks whether the current chaotic state of the telecommunications and related Internet industries is evidence of creative destruction, or simply a result of firms, governments, and others wasting valuable resources with limited benefits to society as a whole. In telecommunications, for example, wireless, IP, and cable-based technologies are all fighting for a share of the market currently dominated by older, circuit-switched, copper-terminated networks. This process is accompanied by mergers, acquisitions, bankruptcies, and investment and divestment in worldwide markets.
The selections discuss the primary challenge facing firms, governments, and other players: how to exploit the opportunities created by such destructive dynamics. They highlight the importance of national regulations promoting competition and nonmonopolistic market structures, as well as the role of new technologies such as the Internet in driving down the price and speeding the diffusion of innovative products and services in telecommunications, media, electronic retailing, and other "new economy" industries.
The Internet has rapidly become an important element of the economic system. The lack of accepted metrics for economic analysis of Internet transactions is therefore increasingly problematic. This book, one of the first to bring together research on Internet engineering and economics, attempts to establish such metrics.
The chapters, which developed out of a 1995 workshop held at MIT, include architectural models and analyses of Internet usage, as well as alternative pricing policies. The book is organized into six sections: