The idea of turning off the internet is foreign concept for many of us in the USA. But in places like Egypt, and now Syria, it happens. So many of our day-to-day services and habits have formed into dependencies on a robust and functioning internet. If it ever failed, we would be in for a cold shock.
I know that some voices within the public sector have requested separate infrastructures to better secure and defend public services and utilities, but as of yet, these do not exist. We are vulnerable as a nation to a number of exploits that would bring down our internet. These include active natural (solar flare) and man-made events (cyber attack), or passive events (simple degradation of support systems).
The United States internet system most likely will experience a cyber-terrorism event in the near future (less than 5 years). I doubt it will experience a government shut-off or natural disaster-related shut off. But without continued public investment, we will inch closer to a passive event-related service loss.
We should heed events like those in Egypt and Syria as reminders of our own vulnerabilities. We should work to ensure that, in the event of an outage, redundancies are in place to provide continuing services from critical infrastructures. We should also ensure that public-use internet is supported with a similarly ongoing host of maintenance and service updates for its physical and digital needs.