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Geoff Daily

App-Rising.com covers the development and adoption of broadband applications, the deployment of and need for broadband networks, and the demands placed on policy to adapt to the revolutionary opportunities made possible by the Internet.

App-Rising.com is written by Geoff Daily, a DC-based technology journalist, broadband activist, marketing consultant, and Internet entrepreneur.

App-Rising.com is supported in part by AT&T;, however all views and opinions expressed herein are solely my own.

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October 20, 2008 9:43 AM

Encouraging Demand > Building Supply for Broadband?

Since I started App-Rising.com I've been advocating that we need a stronger emphasis on finding ways to spur demand for broadband rather than focusing all our attention on increasing capacity.

At first these pleas seemed to be falling on deaf ears. Everyone kept talking about the speed, price, and availability of broadband without including measures aimed at increasing consumer understanding of why they need broadband how it can allow them to conduct their lives more efficiently.

But this idea of making sure to spur demand alongside supply has started coming up repeatedly recently, suggesting a potential sea change at hand.

Today I read this article about Connected Nation's recent report based on interviews with 50,000 consumers that recommended a stronger emphasis be placed on consumers and why nearly half of America still does not subscribe to broadband service. Short version: it's too expensive and they don't know why they need it.

A few weeks ago at the "Why Broadband Matter" Senate Commerce Committee hearing, I heard One Economy cofounder Rey Ramsey argue forcefully for this issue, that we can not achieve our goals of achieving a broadband nation without an equal emphasis on generating demand as supply.

Now, some may find this a hard pill to swallow as one obvious outcome of increasing demand for broadband is creating new broadband customers thereby enriching broadband providers of cable, DSL, wireless, and fiber service.

But ultimately this is an issue we should all be able to agree on as the more broadband subscribers the more customers there are available for entities on the Internet to sell to or draw an audience from. This is especially true in this day and age where so many websites and other online experiences rely on video that needs the bandwidth of broadband to work.

Even if you don't like the idea of putting more money into the pockets of incumbents, you can't deny that the more people you can get onto the network of networks that is the Internet at higher speeds, the more valuable that network becomes.

Increasing demand can also have a positive affect on increasing supply. For example, at the core of the Connected Nation model is an effort to aggregate demand in areas without broadband to show providers that there's business to be had in these areas, helping spur deployment.

Also, as consumers use more bandwidth there's upward pressure on operators to increase capacity just to keep up lest these networks don't deliver the service they promised.

And if we can get enough people demanding true broadband, it can help make the business models for deploying full fiber networks even more feasible than they already are. Imagine what happens when instead of the customer base being 50% of households it's 75%? More customers means more revenue either to fund fiber deployment directly or create more customers so there's more room for competition that leads to increases in capacity.

But we need to remember that it's not just about educating consumers, we also need to find ways to enlighten politicians because without them able to understand why broadband matters how can we expect them to be the champions that we need them to be on these issues?

And yet, despite my renewed hope that more focus will soon be put on increasing demand for broadband I can't help but worry that like in the discussion around deployment we're still not talking in concrete enough terms about not just what our goals are but how we can achieve them.

It's not that there aren't things happening at all levels of government and in communities, things like One Economy's push to get computers into low-income housing and efforts to train seniors, but what we've been missing is a large-scale coordinated approach towards igniting the imaginations of everyone about the possibilities of the Internet to revolutionize how we communicate with the world.

We need to find a way to create a unified message that all parties can adopt and work together under the common banner of getting more people to understand why broadband matters, because the more we do to increase demand for broadband the greater our chances of finding someone to do the job of increasing supply to the levels America needs to achieve in order to stay competitive in the global economy.

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Comments (1)


In more words -- two-way high speed allows families to share photos, sounds, and videos of each other.

Two other ideas -- remote surveillance (not just of private homes, but a way to see if highway is crowded, if parking lot is full, if picnic table is open, etc.) Remote instruction/repair -- two-way high speed allows you to share photos/diagrams/sounds/videos with repair persons and instructors, saving them a trip to your house and saving you either a trip charge or a trip taking your item or you to them.

Posted by Rollie Cole on October 21, 2008 10:42 AM

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