The Myth of Broadband


By John Parkinson

You hear a lot in the media about how the U.S. is a "mature" broadband market and how we need only to fill in the gaps in broadband network coverage to provide a globally competitive connectivity infrastructure.

Sounds great, but the reality is very different. In comparison with the leading broadband environments in the world, we are a slow backwater.

Only here could someone offer as a cost-effective alternative dial-up services with good compression algorithms overloaded on a narrowband circuit. Only here could service providers claim that 256kb/sec asymmetric DSL service is "world-class broadband."

My 3G cell phone does better than that, at least for data, at about the same price.

I still don't understand how carriers get away with this persistent head fake. Partly it's because in many areas consumers don't have much (or any) choice when it comes to a network connection.

Partly it's because we have been brainwashed into thinking that speeds below 2Mb/sec are actually fast, despite the fact that we probably have home networks that run (even wirelessly) at 100Mbits/sec or better over short distances.

Partly it's because at work we generally have connections that run at similar nominal speeds, but are symmetric (upload and download at the same speed); are dedicated rather than shared; and are supported with sophisticated security and compression techniques that squeeze as much data as possible down the pipes.

There are a few bright spots. Fiber to the home delivers higher speeds, albeit with shared backbone capacity. Wireless is getting better all the time (at least for data) and last mile wireless shows real promise if we can ever get it deployed at scale.

But real broadband? For that you have to go to South Korea or Singapore or some parts of mainland China. Here at home, it's mostly just talk.

John Parkinson is CIO of TransUnion. To read his columns for CIO Insight, click here.


2 Comments for "The Myth of Broadband"

  • Albert Wellstein, M CIW D December 02, 2009 10:41 am

    Thank you this post. Thank John Parkinson of TransUnion. The need for speed and breadth on the free and open Internet is vital for many business processes. The demands of U.S. market for these important Internet services should press providers to act. Every second and every edge matters in a commercial environment that demands you move faster to make the market. I feel the need for speed, And I need the room to work. I have not choice but to lead, Since, I can not afford to lurk. Season's Greetings, Master Albert Milwaukee, Wisconsin, U.S.

  • Sh0rtl1ved November 26, 2009 6:44 am

    Its about time this is brought to light. U.S.-based ISPs should be ashamed of themselves, but like you said, many reasons why they get away with it...partly, because U.S. companies like to take advantage of the public by pushing low operational cost service with higher prices. They like the technical ignorance of the public.

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