The Broadband Bandwidth Boondoggle

Om makes great points in his current post about the bogus “need for speed” in broadband. As he points out, higher bandwidth packages currently being touted by carriers is mostly about price discrimination — charging higher prices to people willing to bear it — than it is about meaningfully changing the size of the broadband pipes into peoples’ homes.

Why? Because of Paul’s Rule of New Technology: Unless you offer a ten-fold improvement in performance along some meaningful dimension, most users of your technology won’t notice the performance increase. Rolling up from 1.5Mbps to 6Mbps fails that test, even if it does offer broadband providers an opportunity to charge you more.

Real world-changing differences in broadband will require (mostly) two things:

  1. A 10x increase in bandwidth. In other words, jump me to 15 Mbps or 30Mbps from 1.5Mbps; don’t take me to 6Mbps.
  2. A symmetric pipe. Most of what’s interesting, at least to me, requires far more than the current throttled-to-death outbound pipe. The idea that in some near broadband future I’m getting, say, 15Mbps in, but still dawdling along with 640kbps out, does diddly for me.


  1. Vince young says:

    Well bandwidth costs are coming down as competition increases. Also with the current fios roll out it will be very interesting to see how further they will get cheaper especially for a T1 connection