THE INTERNET’S COMING OF AGE [Review]

THE INTERNET’S COMING OF AGE [Review] – Review

This new book was prepared by the National Academy of Science / National Research Council’s Committee on the Internet in the Evolving Information Infrastructure, Computer Science and Telecommunications Board. The 15-member Committee notes the transformation of the Internet from a research network used by a few thousand researchers into a global communications infrastructure vital to many aspects of daily life and is celebrated as the basis for a new economic order. But as the United States’ dependence on the worldwide network increases, so does the need to avoid problems. Vigorous expansion in the number of people who use it, the number of computers connected to it, and the amount of data that is transmitted continue to place pressures on those who design, build, and operate the Internet. Compounding this are concerns about the system’s vulnerability to attack and the potential for failures. The book attempts to provide a set of guiding principles for those who build and operate its components and for policy-makers who attempt to regulate it. The principal conclusion of the committee is that the Internet is healthy, and that most issues can be solved through evolutionary change. Certain technical issues such as “IPv4” for addresses is discussed, while the costs of implementing an improved “IPv6” are also critiqued. — However, this reviewer found some of the issues discussed are rather biased since it appears that the majority of committee members have traditional telephone company backgrounds, and hence that perspective. To wit, the book cites telephony over the Internet and its regulation, as well as taxation of Internet sales (i.e. a flat tax for states to collect revenue from Web sales). In the public’s perspective, these are all taboo subjects, as well as being currently prohibited by the U.S. Congress and current legislation. (The only problem, as the book notes, is that there are local governments in 36 states authorized to impose local sales taxes, and approximately 7,600 have done so.) Current U.S. sales tax laws treat sales and goods sold over the Internet the same way it treats goods sold from catalogs using mail or phone orders. “Use” taxes exist in most states, but the majority of buyers usually simply ignore them, since it is a voluntary declaration. In this reviewer’s opinion, trying to enforce sales taxes on the Internet would be an impossible task, probably costing more to implement than the taxes it would recover. There would be no end of problems ranging from privacy issues to legality. … Telephony over the Internet is a troubling issue for traditional telephone and long distance carriers, otherwise known as “competition”. What the traditional carriers would like to see is the same kind of regulatory restrictions placed on Internet telephony. (That isn’t about to happen – even if the committee authors endorse the idea.) — The book will be a good resource for reference about Internet issues, pro and con – even if some of the book’s conclusions appear headed in the wrong direction for future planning. — ISBN 0-309-06992. Paperback. 176 pages. Price: $24.95 (prepaid) plus $4.50 for shipping charges; also available via the Internet at NAP’s Website for $19.96 (discounted). Available from the National Academy Press, 3101 Constitution Avenue NW, Lockbox 285, Washington, DC 20055. Telephone: (800) 624-6242 or (202) 334-3313. URL: http://www.nap.edu [Most NAP books are available for free viewing online at NAP’s Website.] [RSH]

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