Experts call for heavy investment in infrastructure.

Lofty claims were made about the internet age at this morning’s Abu Dhabi Media Summit roundtable, “Internet (Almost) Everywhere.”

“In my mind, there are six turning points in the history of humanity and civilization,” Magid Abraham [pictured], President, CEO and Co-Founder of internet market intelligence company comScore Inc, recalled telling his company early in the internet era. They are: agriculture, the invention of the alphabet, the availability of the printing press, the industrial revolution, the transistor…and then the internet.

“I think the internet is, no question, the biggest event that ever happened in history,” Abraham enthused about the information and knowledge available to everyone online, only a click away. “It provides your average citizen with the best deal ever created.”

“Everyone can become a publisher. Everyone has a window to the world,” agreed Osman Sultan, CEO Emirates Integrated Telecommunications Company PJSC (du), of the revolutionary opportunities the digital age now offer.

However, as both executives acknowledged amid this utopianism, there are some prosaic market realities too.

“The dirty secret of the internet is that about half the advertising that is served to the end user is actually not seen by the end user,” Abraham noted.

That’s why advertisers are clamouring for a new system in which they pay on the basis of ads seen. “This would create a lot more certainty about the value of advertising and would help the industry really succeed.”

Another issue is the sheer mass of material uploaded. “It will take you five years that will be transiting on IP networks in one second,” du CEO Sultan warned the audience. “Imagine the type of infrastructure that is needed. I think this a story where states, regulators, policy makers, and industrial operators need to think about this and think who is going to pay for that. We can’t charge customers…being connected is a basic human right and you expect this human right to be less and less expensive for an individual. But nevertheless, there are heavy investments to be made in infrastructure.”

As Sultan acknowledged, access to the internet may now be a human right but somebody somewhere has to pay…“I don’t like too much the word ‘for free’…this free thing makes me a little bit itchy.”