Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

BoomTown in D.C. to Say Happy 25th Birthday to .Com and Wary Hello to Broadband Plan

Last night, I jetted east to Washington, D.C., for an unusual confluence of events: The 25th anniversary of the .com Internet domain name and the Federal Communications Commission’s release of the much anticipated National Broadband Plan.

Both are set for tomorrow in the nation’s capital and both concern the impact of the Web on the United States in the past and the future.

Incredibly, .com was almost .cor, for corporate.

And the first .com address handed out–Symbolics.com–belonged to a now-defunct Massachusetts computer company.

(It signed up via the domain registrar, Network Solutions, which was bought by VeriSign in 2000. The Symbolics.com domain was sold in 2009 to Missouri-based XF.com, which “operates commercial real estate and premium domain properties.”)

In honor of the anniversary, VeriSign (VRSN), which administers the .com registry, is hosting a policy forum in D.C. It includes a keynote address by former President Bill Clinton, as well as some panels.

I will be moderating the one in the afternoon titled “The Next Generation.” The panelists, looking to the future, include, among others: Arianna Huffington of the Huffington Post; Aneesh Chopra, Federal CTO of the U.S.; and Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures.

There will be another gala event to honor Internet innovators in San Francisco in late May.

While the growth of .com was slow until the browser became popularized–numbering under 15,000 in 1992–there are now close to 85 million .com domains. This commercial one is clearly the most important of the designations, both financially and perceptually.

Still, despite how much impact the Internet has had globally, spurred mostly by innovation in the U.S., this country still remains woefully behind in high-speed access to the Web.

While it is easy–and fun–to blame the greedy telcos and cable companies (and they do deserve some of the blame), the lack of a federal imperative has been the most appalling explanation.

It is as if the federal government had decided dirt roads were preferable to the highway system or tin cans and string were better than universal telephone access.

Will making broadband access easy, fast and cheap for most people in the U.S. be the end result of the National Broadband Plan, to be officially unveiled by the FCC tomorrow?

As I wrote last week:

“The two key questions about the effort to get the United States up to speed, so to speak, with decent digital access: Will it be toothless or not and will there be any money to pay for it, given the cash-strapped federal government?”

A possible highlight of the plan concerns whether spectrum should be allocated for a free or inexpensive high-speed wireless service, as well as restoration of some regulations lifted in the previous Republican administration.

But the main focus will be that the U.S. needs high-speed access to improve dramatically across the nation, especially for poorer citizens and in rural areas.

After a quarter-century of .com, the growth of a trillion-dollar industry from one punctuation mark and three letters, and badillions of page views, you would think this would be glaringly obvious to our federal government.

You should think it would.

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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald