The Coming Computer Utility -- Laissez-Faire, Licensing, or Regulation?

by Paul Baran


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The growth of the computer industry, which presses upon existing regulatory processes, makes necessary a re-examination of the entire regulatory structure for data transmission. At present, communications suppliers are highly regulated, while computer companies are not. The cost for computation is dropping so rapidly that the cost of the communication needed to tie together many users of a single machine is now the overriding cost limitation. Concentrating the traffic from a large number of users in order to share expensive transmission circuits is illegal unless a single company is involved (giving a disproportionate advantage to large companies). The most basic regulation mechanisms needed by future computer utilities are professional licensing standards to aid in safeguarding privacy of information; removing the economic advantage to large companies; and providing free exchange across systems.

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