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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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December 3, 2007 9:40 AM

The Internet Gets More Upstream Bandwidth

Read an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal last week about the push to increase upload capacity in last mile access networks. (You can find the link at the bottom of this post.)

I couldn't be more excited about this trend as getting more upload capacity into the network is something that couldn't be more important.

First off, it's terrific to see that the competition being introduced by the deployment of fiber is resulting in increased infrastructure investment by competitive providers. There is the caveat that this investment is currently only focused on limited areas, but at least it's happening somewhere.

The reason putting more upload capacity into place is so vital is because of a simple truth that's been demonstrated throughout the Internet's history: the more bandwidth you give users, the more they'll do with it.

But let's consider this further for a moment. The correlation between more bandwidth equaling more use may seem direct, that more available bandwidth means more bandwidth to consume, but it's actually a bit more nuanced than that.

The more bandwidth you have the better applications run. The faster tasks can be accomplished, and ultimately the cheaper things can get done because they take less time to do. And the better/faster/cheaper applications get, the more likely users are to use them.

For example, you're more likely going to upload large files, like a video you may have created, if it only takes ten minutes instead of an hour. You're more likely to use videocalling if the experience is smooth and not marred by a stuttering picture. And most importantly, the more capacity in the network the more freedom applications developers have to produce cutting edge broadband applications.

So it's not a matter of users getting more bandwidth and then trying to decide how they can use it; more bandwidth simply enables a better user experience for all Internet applications, in turn helping drive demand for all the wonderful things broadband makes possible.

In large part these last thoughts apply to both downloading and uploading, but in particular I sometimes feel the upload part of this equation doesn't get the attention it deserves compared to downstream applications like video-on-demand.

But really what makes the Internet so revolutionary isn't on-demand video; it's the fact that consumers can now be producers, and sharers, and remixers, and service providers. The fact that through upstream capacity they can participate actively rather than consuming passively.

So there's really nothing more important than getting more upload capacity into the network so that more users can be enabled to do more things in an active, participatory way on the Internet.

Related Links:
Wall Street Journal article


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