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AppRising delivers insight into new broadband applications, exploring their impact on networks and their implications for public policy.

AppRising is written by Geoff Daily, who covers broadband applications and the business of online video. Based in Washington, DC, Geoff regularly advises applications developers, network operators, community leaders, and public officials on how to maximize adoption and use of the Internet.

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November 12, 2007 9:34 AM

When Interest Meets Availability: A Tale of Consumer Broadband Adoption

After attending the Blandin Broadband conference in St. Cloud, I spent the weekend visiting friends around the Minneapolis area where I grew up.

Friday night I spent with a best friend of mine that I've known since kindergarten, Jeff Valley. He and I chatted at length about what I was working on and all the wonderful things made possible by broadband.

To step back for a moment and frame this relationship: back in college at the tail end of the 20th century, he pushed me to experiment with a fascinating new technology called VoIP. (Talking over the Internet was a pretty neat experience the first time, despite the horrible lags.)

Since then, though, he admitted that he hadn't really kept up on what was happening online, that he wasn't familiar with most of the applications I was mentioning.

Now, I find this interesting because here's a young, techno-savvy male who has certainly been engaged with broadband applications in the past yet who doesn't use them to any great degree in his day-to-day life.

Just as we began to discuss why it is that he had fallen off the cutting edge when he shared something with me: his recent purchase of an IPTV box and subscription to the IPTV service of ITVN.

The impetus behind this purchase was his fervor as a soccer fan. He bought into a $15 a month service because it allowed him to watch Premiere league soccer matches that simply weren't available anywhere on TV.

The quality was good, though not great, sometimes looking blocky during the fast back-and-forth action of a top-flight soccer game. And while the service allowed him to watch soccer all day on the weekends, it wasn't like this was a TV replacement service; all that's on is soccer.

But all this doesn't matter because through this broadband application he was able to get the content that he wanted. And despite his claims not to be engaged with the broadband revolution, here he was with an IPTV box hooked up to the Internet sitting in his living room underneath his TV.

Why had this application caught his attention above all others? Because it gave him something he wanted at a price he thought was fair in a form factor that made sense.

Interestingly, when I got home from this trip, a similar thing had happened for my Internet-phobic wife, Ji Choe. She still has yet to make her first purchase on Amazon due to fears of giving out her credit card and uncertainty about how the Internet works, yet what did she spend a large part of her time doing while I was gone? Watching episodes of her favorite anime on a recently discovered website that housed the show's entire archives for free for on-demand playback.

Here was a girl who never did anything other than browse a couple websites, check the weather and the Metro schedule, surf craigslist, and maybe watch a YouTube video or two, and now because she found content that was relevant to her at a price that was unbeatable in a manner that was easy to use, and now she's watching multiple hours of full-length episodes in a single sitting over the Internet.

To me what this all demonstrates is that arguably the biggest barrier to adoption of broadband applications is matching up user interest to availability. Driving adoption demands building awareness, but that can be a double edged sword.

On the one hand, navigating to a website is the easiest thing in the world. On the other, getting people to find a site that matches their personal interests can be the hardest thing in the world.

But instead of trying to solve that problem in this post, I simply wanted to share this anecdotal experience of what's possible when availability and interest combine to create possibilities and opportunities for engaging more people with the broadband revolution.


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