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What’s an E-state?

As regular readers of Fractals of Change and Vermonters already know, Governor Jim Douglas proposed that Vermont become the first e-state. But what’s an e-state?  I don’t speak for the Governor in any way but I do think I know what he’s talking about and what the word has come to mean in subsequent discussion so I posted an article in wikipedia which currently reads:

E-state is used to refer both to a state with universal availability of fixed and roaming broadband Internet access within its borders and a state which primarily delivers its services and conducts its business online. "State" in this context can mean a state as political subdivision of a nation or a state which is a nation.

“The two meanings of the word go together since a state must have confidence that there is universal broadband access before it can make online delivery of services primary. If any significant minority of the state’s citizens don’t have broadband access or if broadband access is only available from fixed locations, then services still must be designed for offline delivery even if online delivery is also an option.

“There are currently no e-states in either sense of the word.

“The first know use of the term e-state was in January of 2007 by Vermont Governor Jim Douglas in a speech proposing that the legislature approve bonding authority to enable Vermont to become the first e-state in the United States. The term in now uniformly used in discussion of this plan and its intended consequence.”

One of the great virtues of wikipedia is that it becomes a forum for the discussion of terms when the terms are still fresh. Some people are sure to improve my article; some may even object to it being there since there is, as of yet, no e-state.  The concept of e-state is bound to evolve and, as it does, the article in wikipedia’ll remain fresh because of the energy its users put into editing.

Back of the subject of e-states:  the key assumption is that there is a huge advantage to everyone in having universal broadband access, not just to the last few people to join the online community.  I don’t know of any name for the law that says a network which reaches everyone is an order of magnitude more valuable than a network which reaches most people but, nevertheless, believe the law is true. Intuitive understanding of this law led to Benjamin Franklin’s invention of the US Postal System (before there was a US) rural electrification, the farm-to-market and the Interstate highway systems, and even the Universal Service Fund (as badly run as it certainly is) for telephone access.

Once you know that everyone is on-net, it becomes possible to design services exclusively for delivery via the new network. The result is usually vastly improved service – no matter what the service is – at a lower price. On the other hand, when a significant minority is off-net, you’re stuck with the cost of off-net delivery so a radically new version of whatever the service is usually too costly and NOT developed.

For example schools can’t give Internet-dependent homework unless all students are known to have usable Internet access. If schools DON’T give homework which depends on using search engines, wikipedia, and other online sources, they’re unable to do the their job of preparing students to live in the world.

An e-state is a state in which everyone is online wherever he or she happens to be.  The important word is “everyone”.

Related posts:

Vermont, The First E-State

More on Vermont, The First E-State

Vermont, The First E-State – First Reactions


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Last Longer

I noticed that in 2007, you mentioned that you didn't think that Internet devices would be as cheap as telephones by 2010. Well I am here to point out that it's 2009 and I have seen those device cheaper than a top-of-the-line telephone.

Tom Evslin


In theory it should be a lot easier to create an e-city than an e-state, but it may be easier to reach an actionable consensus on what needs to be done in Vermont than SF.

However, I think the goals are somewhat different. SF is talking about free access which the State of Vermont is not promising to provide. May happen in some places and the State's infrastructure may help but that's not the goal.

The goal is to make sure there's affordable access everywhere in the state, both fixed and roaming. The State is not claiming a monopoly on building towers nor is it granting one, simply trying to make sure that enough towers get built in the right places.

The plan anticipates that competitors will rent space on the towers and that these competitors will provide last mile service at varying rates with varying plans.


I'm not as sure that an Internet device in 2010 will be as cheap as a telephone. Also, I think more people need help interacting with machines than the handicap and economically disadvantaged.

You can bring a horse to water, but you can't make him drink.

That said, I hope you are right on both counts.

Tom Evslin


Without being an expert on rural electrification, I'd guess we are in a similar circumstance perhaps complicated by the fact that many fewer people are rural today.

However, the buildout of many networks - think of Fedex, for example - has demonstrated the value of actually being everywhere for the network as a whole.

Although market forces would eventually provide access everywhere in Vermont by themselves, Vermont state government does not want Vermonters to suffer economic, cultural, and educational disadvantages while waiting and sees a benefit to the people of the state in leading rather than following.

That's the reason for the proposed Rural Telecommunication Authority - help access to happen faster than it otherwise would.

Tom Evslin


given that by 2010 it'll be possible to access the Internet with a variety of tools (some of them extremely inexpensive), I don't think it'll be necessary to develop offline delivery systems for services introduced or retooled after that. Just as we can assume telephone and assume television and assume electricity today, we'll be able to assume usable Internet access then.

Will there be people who need special help in using this access either because of handicaps or poverty? Of course. But they'll be given special help in one way or another so that Internet delivery of services doesn't disenfranchise them.

Will Rhode Island beat Vermont to the punch? Their job should be easier but I bet we win. Good race to have, though.


Would it be fair to say that San Francisco's Mayor Gavin Newsome is closer at this juncture to the true E-City than Vermont is to being a tru E-state, given the city's partnership with EarthLink and Google in "WiFi-ing" the metro area? Free Access for all...I remember that political entities (in a perfect world) supposedly operate as a sum of all its parts. Is San Francisco's plan, at the city level, similar to Vermont's or are the platforms and their intended goals vastly different? Will it be easier for a city to become an E-unit and provide the map for other cities in a state to do so and then will Google help link them together forming a virutal e-state solution? Will the entire population be at the disposal of a publically traded company's ability to be the sole director of information delivery systems?

Is the city providing an entire population-base-of-revenue to Google and Earthlink? Will San Francisco participate revenue wise in any way that could be construed as a compromise of a goverment's ethics to its citizens? Is the end (a completley wired and informed citizenry) justifying the means (give select corporations by contract the right to datamine and extract revenue in the process of creating a subscription base of an entire population) a breach of the public trust or not? Why would this be allowed when every other service for a city usually is put out for bid if a company is given the right to be the sole provider of a government sponsored service to the public. Is it because the city has no bill to pay in this case, no posturing for its own financial gain? Are there no tax payer dollars being used to facilitate this? Or will it be found there are great benefits for the city being delivered by the providers. Do any of these questions apply to Vermont as well...

I apologize for the ramble but I have been following your blog for a while and just got hit with the need to type...one last thought:

My understanding is it is City Hall's desire, in the case of San Francisco, to make acccess a right for all socio-economic groups with a free wireless access city. Very commendable. The thing I find interesting is the intended ability to pay for an up-graded premium service which leads to the question in my mind of whether all E-citizens will truly be created equal...

Charles McCreary

How would you compare the geographic/socio-economic distribution of broadband and its perceived utility with electric utility/phone service in the early to mid 20th century?

To me, the scenarios are practically identical. There is no economic incentive to serve less dense, rural areas with high-speed net access just like (pre REA) there was little incentive to supply the farmer/rancher with electricity or telephone service. Fifty years ago, the rural density was significantly higher than today.


Let's say you close the gap, and high speed Internet access is everywhere. You still need to maintain offline delivery for the 30-40% of people without the machines that access this Internet. And there are probably still a signifigant amout of people with Internet tools that lack sufficient know-how.

Rhode Island may beat Vermont to the punch, btw. It does have some advantages in size and population density.

"(January 16, 2007), Providence, RI—The Business Innovation Factory today announced its plans for statewide rollout of the Rhode Island Wireless Innovation Networks (RI-WINs), an effort to make Rhode Island the first state in the country with a border-to-border broadband network."


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