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The Week Ahead: Gadget show underscores digital appetite

By Tom Hudson, McClatchy Newspapers –

Surely you have been caught in traffic already today.  Maybe you ran into congestion on your way to read this.  You didn’t even have to leave your house to be slowed down by heavy traffic.  And it’s only going to get worse.

All those Netflix movies, smartphone applications and Facebook updates have crowded the Information Superhighway.  In the fourth quarter, Netflix subscribers jammed the Internet with 2 billion hours of streaming media content.  Netflix and YouTube combined were responsible for almost 40 percent of online volume in North America, according to Internet metric firm Sandvine.

We are an unwired world with an insatiable digital appetite.

This week, we will gorge on new digital delicacies.  The International Consumer Electronics Show will showcase smaller, thinner and more powerful devices, ranging from televisions to tablets to telematics for cars.

As more of these devices get online, it threatens to slow or stall anything we’re doing online, whether for commerce or entertainment.  The part of the electromagnetic spectrum carrying all these videos, emails and phone calls is controlled by the Federal Communications Commission, and the agency is under increasing pressure to release more spectrum space — essentially, to build more lanes on the information superhighway.

This isn’t just about tweeting from your iPhone.  This is a real economic and global competitive issue.  Countries with faster and more robust communications systems will enjoy the spoils of developing and selling the next best thing.

So while we “ooh” and “aah” at the newest digital devices this week, think of each one as another car in front of you.

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