A problem with the cable line running through my neighborhood has been causing an intermittent loss of signal and wreaking havoc on my and my neighbors' Internet and cable television connections. The cable company repair folks have not been able to isolate it, so as a result, the company has decided to just drop in a new segment of the cable line between some cable boxes where the problem seems to be. The repair technician who was standing outside of my house diagnosing the problem couldn't tell me exactly when the new line would be put in. But he told me that I'll know it when my TV and Internet connection go dark for a few hours.
When I asked him if there is a more proactive way of finding out when the repair was going to happen, he shrugged his shoulders and said, "Look for our trucks outside your house." I am just hoping that it doesn't happen when I absolutely, positively need my connection to be up and running.
My dependence on the Internet is most likely at the same level as yours: It would be harder to do work (or shop or play) without it. The management consulting company Boston Consulting Group (BCG) has recently released a report titled, "The $4.2 Trillion Opportunity: The Internet Economy in the G-20," that attempts, among other things, to assess the value of the Internet to an individual consumer.
According to the BCG press release, the report's authors based their assessment of the Internet's value on "how much consumers said that they would have to be paid to live without Internet access." People living in the G-20 nations say they would need to be paid (on average) $1430 each to go without it.
The press release also states that the value of the Internet "varies among countries, from $323 in Turkey to $1,215 in South Africa, to $1,287 in Brazil, and $4,453 in France."
According to this blog post over at Smart Planet, which says that BCG interviewed about 1000 online users in each G-20 country, a U.S. resident would stay off the Internet for a measly $2500; people in the UK would demand around $3450.
I don't know how much money I would want in order to stay off the Internet for a year, but I think it would be more than $2500. That figure would just about cover the value of the information I access now for free that I would have to pay for if I wanted to access it another way. Perhaps it would be enough to get me to stop using Google, like Spectrum Associate Editor Josh Romero did.
Be that as it may, how much money would be enough of an inducement to get you to stay off the Internet for an entire year? And more importantly, do you think you could actually do it?
Robert N. Charette is a Contributing Editor to IEEE Spectrum and an acknowledged international authority on information technology and systems risk management. A self-described “risk ecologist,” he is interested in the intersections of business, political, technological, and societal risks. Charette is an award-winning author of multiple books and numerous articles on the subjects of risk management, project and program management, innovation, and entrepreneurship. A Life Senior Member of the IEEE, Charette was a recipient of the IEEE Computer Society’s Golden Core Award in 2008.