The Information Superhighway’s One-Way Lane

Information Superhighway

The Internet is often cast as a revolutionary source of information, but that’s only half of it: the more fundamental benefit is as a medium for communication. Anyone can share anything, voices without access to major media can post pictures, thoughts, and news, questions can be asked and answered, orders can be placed, and relationships can be formed. It surpasses the last profound media monument, television, in that it is an interactive rather than passive platform. The big challenge is in gaining access: a great deal of internet providers rely on cable connections, requiring a wired infrastructure for bringing together the mighty network. Large portions of the globe don’t have that kind of technological luxury, and there are ambitious efforts underway to circumvent that limitation with satellite-based web transmission. Such plans are not without significant troubles: a satellite network is expense to launch and maintenance-intensive, to say nothing of the sizable latency in sending a signal to orbit and back.

Outernet, a broadcasting company, offers something of a devil’s deal in the way of addressing these concerns. The company sells a device called the Lighthouse, a $100 gadget that functions as an internet broadcaster and as a Wi-Fi hub. Internet broadcasts channeled through the Lighthouse are free. The keyword, however, is “broadcast.” If the Lighthouse is a road in the internet, it’s one-way: users can only download content, not upload. This means no online purchases, no leaving comments on videos, and no social media presence. Furthermore, Outernet has a slim bandwidth of data that it can offer each day, meaning that it can only deliver a small portion of the internet to its users. To determine what is broadcast, organizations pay Outernet to prioritize their content – the antithesis of the just-finished “net neutrality” debates in the USA. Outernet argues that what it offers is better than nothing, delivering web access to those who otherwise would go without. However, it does beg the question as to whether or not passive consumption of market-determined content is worthwhile in the first place.


About DevonJ140
I am currently an Accounting Director living in New York City. I love reading and learning more about business, finance, tech, and current events.

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