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January 21, 2007

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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