cover image Fiber: The Coming Tech Revolution and Why America Might Miss It

Fiber: The Coming Tech Revolution and Why America Might Miss It

Susan Crawford. Yale Univ., $30 (272p) ISBN 978-0-300-22850-2

A little fiber will go a long way, according to this book’s plan for improving access to healthcare, education, and transit—and for combating inequality—in the U.S., which posits that “all the policies important to us as a country... depend on having last-mile fiber and advanced wireless services available cheaply to everyone.” It may sound like a tough sell, but Wired columnist Crawford (Captive Audience) convinces with impeccable journalism and empathetic portraits of rural communities and low-income cities in distress, the ails of which could be much alleviated by a large-scale federal investment in fiber optic connections. She looks to Japan, Singapore, South Korea, and Scandinavia, all far ahead of the fiber curve, and compares their swift progress to the sluggish and haphazard efforts of American cities, which seem to lack the political will to make the switch. As she explains, fiber presents a cheaper and faster alternative to copper and DSL, which could enable low-income citizens easier access to healthcare and education via emergent possibilities like, respectively, telepsychiatry and robots that allow sick students to participate in classroom sessions from home. Crawford’s work is both refreshing and potent in how it clinically identifies the problem, and proposes a straightforward, feasible solution. (Jan.)