Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Killer App of 1900

"A hundred years ago, lighting was the killer app for electricity, the thing that made it worthwhile to have installed. No one particularly understood what else electricity might bring to the mass market, because other uses were generally specialized, the province of experts, the wealthy, or industry. Compressors to allow refrigeration and freezing, electric heat, and other innovations came later to homes."
This is an interesting articel that compares electricity 100 years ago to broadband access today. Here is a section that if you replace the word electricity with broadband it could be used today.
"In researching a KUOW segment airing soon about the digital divide and Seattle’s particular problems with broadband, I found this marvelous statement from Oct. 24, 1905, in the Richmond, Virginia, Times-Dispatch newspaper. A lawyer named Henry Anderson was arguing on behalf of two clients of the city who didn’t want to be taxed to pay for a municipal utility. Among other arguments against municipal ownership, he said, eloquently:
“Unless we adopt the principles of socialism, It can hardly be contended that It is the province of government, either state or municipal, to undertake the manufacture or supply of the ordinary subjects of trade and commerce, or to impose burdens upon the whole community for the supposed benefit of a few….
“The ownership and operation of municipal light plants stands upon a different basis from that of the ownership of water works, with which it is so often compared. Water is a necessity to the health and life of every individual member of a community…It must be supplied in order to preserve the public health, whether it can be done profitably or not, and must be furnished, not to a few individuals, but to every individual.
“Electric lights are different. Electricity is not in any sense a necessity, and under no conditions is it universally used by the people of a community. It is but a luxury enjoyed by a small proportion of the members of any municipality, and yet if the plant be owned and operated by the city, the burden of such ownership and operation must be borne by all the people through taxation.
“Now, electric light is not a necessity for every member of the community. It Is not the business of any one to see that I use electricity, or gas, or oil in my house, or even that I use any form of artificial light at all.”
When will we listen to the past?

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