Why is this page text-only?


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.

« Article Roundup: Internet Enables Discovery of Asteroid by High School Students, and More... | Main | Discussing the Use of Broadband With Matthew Lesko, The Question Mark Guy »

January 18, 2008 7:17 AM

The Less Bandwidth You Have the Less You’ll Use It

While the ultimate amount of bandwidth every home will want and demand in the next ten years is very much up for debate, there is one thing I know first hand: the less bandwidth you have the less you’ll use the Internet.

This is opposite of the most often used analogy of “if we build it they will come”, where whatever capacity you put into the ground users will find a way to fill up.

The reason I’m writing this now is because for the last couple of days my wireline cable access has been down and I’ve been forced to rely solely on my wireless EV-DO card to get online.

Now this isn’t the first time this has happened. Back in the fall in the week during our move to a new apartment I was faced with the same lack of wireline access, and any time I’m on the road I’m likely connecting online wirelessly. So I know what it means to only have 500Kbps or so to work with.

In trying to exist with that little bandwidth, I’ve made a few observations:

- With less bandwidth it’s not just that you can’t do as much, it’s that you don’t want to do as much. For example, sometimes the speeds I get wirelessly are capacious enough to support watching a YouTube video as the way God intended: instant on and with no buffering. But many other times it'll hang, the video trying to play back faster than it can download. So what ends up happening? Eventually I start dreading trying to watch any online video when I’m accessing the Internet wirelessly.

It’s not that I can’t watch YouTube videos; if need be I can always click on a video, hit pause, and let it load before playing it back. It’s just that I don’t want to, I don’t want to have to deal with the hassle of waiting or sitting through a video riddled with hiccups.

So while I do subscribe to the belief that the more bandwidth that’s available the more users will find ways to use that capacity, I also support the notion that the less bandwidth one has the less one not only can but will do with it.

- I’m increasingly reliant on bigger bandwidth networks for my profession. While this probably shouldn’t be a surprise, it is a frustrating realization on the morning of a day when wireline access is still shaky and I’m supposed to be working with not one but two different videocalling applications today -- testing out TVBlob by talking with its makers in Italy through my TV, and conducting a video interview with Michael Curri, who’s based near Paris, about his work helping communities leverage broadband to promote economic development. These are two applications that either won’t work or at the very least I don’t want to even try to see if they’ll work wirelessly; it’s just not worth the hassle of dealing with limited bandwidth.

- At the same time, to a large degree I really don’t need a big bandwidth network to do what I need to do. Sure I’m limited in trying out newer high bandwidth apps, but in terms of my day-to-day life, only having 500-750Kbps of throughput is surprisingly sufficient. I mean, I’m able to surf the Web, check my email, interact with most hosted applications like an online word processor, and even watch the occasional YouTube video (when the situation warrants the wait). After lightly chastising a couple techie-friends recently for their admitted lack of a reliance on broadband, it’s startling to realize that I’ve been surviving with less than a meg of consistent service.

What this tells is me is that 1. a lot of tremendous things are possible with less than a meg of access, 2. the less bandwidth I have the less I try to use it, and 3. we’re still a helluva long ways from the point where the use of broadband is not only ubiquitous but woven into the fabric of our day-to-day lives.

On one last note, I don’t want anyone to think I’m disparaging my EV-DO card. In all honesty, I love the thing. Being able to access the Internet from anywhere at anytime is a phenomenally freeing experience. With hotels often charging $10 a night for wireless Internet, the $50 I spend a month on my EV-DO service seems like a bargain. And while I’ve been lamenting over the lack of bandwidth, this little card pretty reliably delivers a half a meg of connectivity, with the occasional burst as high as 2Mbps. It may not be fast but it works when I need it, and that’s all that matters.


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Comments (1)

Imagine having only 11.5 kbps to work with...only 4 miles from Dartmouth College, in semi-rural Vermont, along the Connecticut River bordering Hanover NH and Norwich VT. No broadband on this "in-town" road, although folks just 1 mile closer to town have Comcast. (I'm 2.9 miles from town on a road where there are homes every 100-500 feet or so). Verizon left Vermont, refusing to do broadband or wireless, and so...like many other "college-town" professionals in Norwich, I'm stuck with dialup that's so bad (very aged, funky Verizon phone lines) that I get only 25% of the normal dialup speed (let's say 45-49 kbps). Can you IMAGINE what it's like to spend hours on the internet every day, at 11.5 kbps? I can't tell if I'm addicted to browsing/research on the web, or if it just takes SO-oo-oo long to get anything done, it only SEEMS as though I'm addicted!

Posted by Aviva Magnolia on January 29, 2008 2:15 AM

Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)