Ubiquitous connectivity is a matter of national security

A little cross country travel makes one realize that connectivity is essential. A lot of cross country travel makes one realize that connectivity is sparse at best. A connected nation is a safer nation.
Written by Ken Hess, Contributor

On my most recent trek to and from Wyoming last week, I realized that even in mid-2013 we're still a relatively unconnected nation. By unconnected, I mean that while travelling along America's highways, especially those in The Heartland (aka Flyover Country), there's often no connectivity in either WiFi or cellular forms. For example, there was a huge storm brewing near Salina, Kansas and we couldn't get a weather report to warn us of any impending danger*. We also couldn't tune in to a decent radio station. So, just like in the "olden" days, we kept plodding ahead, fighting the ever-present winds along scenic I-70, toward the storm. For me, and many others, connectivity would at least help. I'd give up french fries for the rest of my life for some consistent and existent connectivity during my travels.

No Service. That's the message we repeatedly saw when attempting to get some idea of what we were heading into. Fortunately, it only rained on us from about halfway between Russell (Kansas) and Salina to just south of Newton, heading towards Wichita.

Connectivity, I thought, is extremely important. Duh.

Then I thought, "Hey, this doesn't make me feel very safe knowing that there are huge expanses in this very modern country where I have no connectivity." It's a rather scary idea.

I've driven I-70 many times over the past several years to Denver, to Breckinridge, and to Wyoming. It's harsh to say the least. Even my best experience with that 400 mile plus stretch of paved hell is still pretty bad.

Having no connectivity along the way makes it worse.

If I knew how to go about it, I'd create a Kickstarter project or acquire some grant money to provide WiFi coverage for the entire USA.

I think that connectivity makes our citizens safer and our national security greater.

Just think about it. You could be stranded for days (and people have been) with no connectivity. About the only thing you could do, if you have the means, is start a fire and hope that your smoke signals attract enough attention for a rescue.

There are enough hills, mountains, and other high points in this country to provide decent coverage on every square inch of its soil. My opinion is that my so-called "Connect America" project should be funded by government, companies, and individuals in order to enjoy cellular and WiFi connectivity everywhere we go.

It's not a lot to ask. OK, maybe it is a lot but it's not an impossible amount.

As some of you have pointed out in previous posts, it doesn't matter how much stuff you have online or in "the cloud", if you have no connectivity to reach it. Everyone is so focused on cloud services, cloud storage, and cloud this and that—that I think we've lost sight of the whole connectivity issue. Connectivity is essential. Online or "in the cloud" are meaningless without it.

Heck, there are places right in the city where I live that have no connectivity, so how can I ponder providing some kind of access to an entire nation?

Good question.

The best answer that I can give is, "There's a need."

There's a need to provide access and connectivity to a "connected" nation. I mentioned earlier that connectivity provides for greater safety and for greater national security. It's easy to understand how widespread connectivity will make us all safer on a personal level but what about national security? How is national security positively affected by my proposed connectivity blanket?

Think about how information spreads. Information is communication. Communication is security. Ask anyone in the military what the most important asset to have in combat is. That person will likely answer, "Communication."

Communication is how information flows from reconnaissance to command and out to the troops. Communication needs to be reliable, accurate, and rapid.

A fully connected nation guarantees communication reliability.

And if you're worried that terrorists could knock out communications under my scenario, think about this important fact. The fewer targets the enemy has, the easier those targets are to take out of commission. Hundreds or thousands of targets are too numerous for an easy mark.

And like the Internet itself, communications along my channels would be OSPF-style. This would guarantee a certain amount of redundancy and guaranteed delivery in the event of an outage in one area. And for greater connectivity, the military could use satellite uplinks to ensure communication integrity. And signals between "hot spots" would be encrypted to DOD standards.

An expensive undertaking perhaps but a high bandwidth, wireless communications infrastructure is essential to our nation's safety and security. Not to mention the business need for it.

Until we have ubiquitous connectivity in this country, companies can manufacture all the fancy cell phones, can provide really cool cloud-based XaaS-type software, can build virtual desktop infrastructures, and can construct massive virtual server farms until the end of days, but if I have no way to access it, it's as good as not being there.

What do you think? Do you think that a fully covered and connected nation are necessary or just a silly dream? Talk back and let me know.

*You have no idea how bad the weather is in Kansas until you drive through it. I've driven through high winds, snow, sleet, ice, rain, and ground blizzards during my many trips across that vast and dreary emptiness. I'm convinced that Kansas hates me. The feeling is mutual.

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