information superhighway (infobahn) definition

Contributor(s): Linda Tucci

Information superhighway is a term that was used mainly in the 1990s to describe a national communications network that would span the United States and allow Americans to quickly access and exchange information via voice, data, video and other services.

The term information superhighway is closely associated with the politician Al Gore Jr., who championed the benefits of a high-speed information network as early as 1978 and, as vice president during the Clinton Administration, promoted the concept of an information superhighway on the national stage. The information superhighway would bring benefits such as better education to citizens, regardless of income level.

The term, however, has accrued various meanings. Some dictionaries define the information superhighway as a synonym for the Internet. It is also used to refer to a global information network of communication systems, (including telephone, cable television and satellite communications networks) accessed for a flat fee or pay-per-use. Other languages have similar terms. Infobahn (after the German autobahn) refers to a high-speed computer network, as does the word infostrada, the name for a prototype information network built in Poland in the early 1970s.

While intended as a metaphor, the term information superhighway could soon refer to actual highways, as the "connected car," or cars equipped with Internet access, communicate with each other on the road.

This was first published in August 2014

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