This Week’s Agenda: Defending Internet Time

Time may have seemed to stand still during the boom, they say, but a gold rush is like that. “Paint Your Wagon” was like that. The party is over; “Internet time” was a mass hallucination. Slow, steady, and planned (backed by patient capital) is what wins the race.

An appealing picture. But, unfortunately for the steady-state theorists, it’s wrong.

George W. Bush emphasized this in last week’s State of the Union address. The war has moved, that doesn’t mean it’s over. Consider the last few months, the last “year” in Internet time:

It’s true no one has reinvented the browser, created a new 3-D data format, or launched a major Internet initial public offering (IPO) lately. The action moved from Wall Street to Washington and from the finance beat to the crime beat.

Let’s take a look at just one of these recent changes: wireless broadband.

It’s dawning on a growing number of analysts that Moore’s Law applies not only to computer chips but also to bandwidth and (more important) to wireless bandwidth. Wireless systems, after all, are based on radios, and radios are built with computer chips.

As computer chips improve, so should wireless radios.

Air can be upgraded more easily than copper. A bunch of new companies are emerging to take advantage of this fact.

That could mean ubiquitous broadband, not only for your desk but also for your laptop and personal digital assistant (PDA). Multimegabit access systems that completely bypass the phone companies, that plug directly into fiber access points, which themselves are sped up by the use of color. What would it mean to Internet content, commerce, and advertising if broadband were available everywhere, indoors and out, and if that capacity could be accelerated without changing wires, just radios?

We could, in fact, be at the brink of the biggest outpouring of entrepreneurial energy since the dawn of the dial-up Internet. If that’s not revolutionary, I don’t know what is.

No, Virginia, Internet time isn’t slowing down. If anything, it’s speeding up. That means more opportunities are coming, not fewer.

Count on it.

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