Will our plugged-in planet have a green or black future?

Kansas City StarJanuary 24, 2012 

Chances are the Internet has changed something about your life. How you shop. How you stay in touch with school buddies or look for a job.

But has it made you greener? And will using the Internet more change your wear and tear on the planet?

The short answer is that the Internet could save energy, if not necessarily Mother Earth.

The more interesting answer comes in a longer conversation short on absolutes and peppered with unintended consequences.

In Kansas City, perhaps as much as anywhere in America, that discussion could become ever more profound. If Google Inc. succeeds with plans to blanket the market in lightning-fast Internet hookups — its service will make its debut in some neighborhoods this year — the change could be transformational.

We’ll have access at home to Internet fast enough to download the city library’s entire collection every minute. Speeds like that, Google hopes, will mean that we use the Internet more and in so-far-unimagined ways.

Some of that use could help us cut back on energy consumption, though some will surely add to our demand. The results will vary and often defy calculation.

“We don’t see the Internet as some silver bullet, but it will help cut energy use,” said Rob Atkinson, the executive director of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation. “It can make a difference. It’s just not always clear in what ways.”

Let’s imagine you’ve got an office job. You drive 10 miles to work and 10 miles back. Now let’s outfit your house with Google’s promise of 1-gigabit-per-second Internet speed — bandwidth to burn.

Read the complete story at kansascity.com

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