F0ul Thoughts

Mild mannered on the outside, Free thinker on the inside

Broadband – when is it fast enough?

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Everyone seems to want faster broadband, but sometimes the numbers become meaningless. The question is, how fast do you want?

I’m currently running on around 40Mb at home, with an upload speed of around 10Mb. I don’t worry about download time or buffering or having to share my connection with others. Things just happen quickly and quietly. If I wanted to state an ideal, it would possibly be the same speeds that I get with a LAN of 100Mb.

That doesn’t mean that this is the ideal speed, and once everyone is on 40Mb, all our problems are over. Far from it. What it means is that today, broadband works well in our household.

That is actually the crux of the problem. Broadband speeds have become political, either because they get used as shorthand for having a modern lifestyle, or the opposite of being the cause of a digital divide. It really isn’t true, but when we talk about politicians, we are talking about a class of person who doesn’t understand anything beyond popularity and sensationalism.

Technology goes through a few phases during its life, from bleeding edge, unstable but very cool to geeks, through to do people still use those museum pieces? IT, as in desktops, laptops etc used to be only something for the geeks with no social skills but now are currently as cool as washing machines! Everyone has something that works, and if you want a new one, you visit the supermarket!

Broadband is close to this point where the vast majority of urban people have a choice of ADSL or Fibre or Cable and make their choice based on price vs performance. Rural communities can’t do this yet.

Rural communities are still about 5 years behind their urban cousins with internet usage. Dial up is rare, but ADSL is between 512Kb through to 3-4 Mb at its peak. Nobody gets FTTC and ADSL2+ is always being promised within the next 6 months!

Here is the important bit. Whatever speed they are getting isn’t the point. Broadband is at a turning point where the technical details are becoming irrelevant compared to what people do with it. We no longer need broadband just so we can check our emails and visit a few websites. That sort of use is easily possible with a 512kb connection. The turning point is because the internet has become real time.

We now use social media where the news is only a few seconds away. We use streaming TV services so we can see what is happening, where ever we might be. We use the internet for telecoms so we can speak to anyone from anywhere – cheaply! We can now work from anywhere with a broadband connection and pretend to be in the office! We share phone calls, databases and documents with colleagues who can be spread around the globe and its easy and cheap!

However, if you are not used to this way of working, why would you want it? More importantly if you don’t know what you need a fast broadband service for, how do you know if its fast enough?

I would suggest we need to look at broadband just like we used to deal with electricity. Remember the power cuts we would get? If you are under 30 the answer is probably no! We need broadband to be as unobtrusive as electricity where it just works, it just handles the speed we need, when we ask for it, and where the only cost is based on how much data we move – not on how fast we get it.

That is going to take another 10 years, but the days of a broadband equivalent to a 230v 30A supply is getting nearer! 🙂


Written by f0ul

January 24, 2013 at 1:59 pm

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