Back to two tin cans and a string?
August 27, 2001 10:20 AM   Subscribe

Back to two tin cans and a string? With so many of the broadband providers going down (and with it, their service), will the promise of broadband ever be fulfilled, or will consumers decide we can get by without it?
posted by msacheson (34 comments total)
There may be a future in home broadband but neither cable nor DSL is it. You have an unbridged gap between the net and the little leaf nodes and you need some better idea for bridging it than anything now available. Personally I want fiber direct to my house, and I'm willing to pay $19.95 a month for unlimited access.

To say that another way, the world will go broadband when the service is rock-steady reliable and is NOT billed as a premium service.
posted by jfuller at 10:36 AM on August 27, 2001

My wife and I are hoping our DSL provider goes under soon so we can out of the deal and save some cash. After that, we'll just dial-in again.
posted by msacheson at 10:46 AM on August 27, 2001

My guess is that broadband will continue to be popular in some urban areas that have a high concentration of high-tech workers -- people who need fast access for working remotely, early adopters of home networking products and other hi-end geek toys, etc. The people in my office would be bereft if they couldn't have cable/DSL at home.

My mother just switched over from a 56k dialup to broadband because it was the same price as her dialup, but she never uses the damn computer in the first place. When my mother has a broadband connection, you know the market is oversaturated with supply.
posted by briank at 11:06 AM on August 27, 2001

Broadband for the same price as dial-up? Where on the planet is this? When you can get local dial-up for $9.95/month, unlimited use, I have suspicions about similarly priced broadband.
posted by Dreama at 11:07 AM on August 27, 2001

For me, the cost of a second phone line and a dial-up connection was $2.15 cheaper than a cable connection. I went with cable.
And while I have had nothing but headaches from the cable customer service people, I wouldn't regress back to a dial-up for anything. (Hell, I recently turned down renting a super-sweet house because there was no broadband access.)
posted by brittney at 11:14 AM on August 27, 2001

Where is dial-up $9.95?

The most interesting question is how much will broadband adoption slow down now that the set of things on the Web which make us of it is decreasing. Frankly, I think broadband outside the workplace is not worth more than a few extra dollars/month.
posted by ParisParamus at 11:14 AM on August 27, 2001

My mother, who lives in Maine, was paying $29.95 for a dialup, and the cable company in her town offers broadband for the same price. It's not that broadband was dirt cheap, it's that the cost of the dialup was expensive.
posted by briank at 11:18 AM on August 27, 2001

I don't think the "set of things which use {broadband} is decreasing". If you want Napster-esque music sharing you can certainly get it. (The real killer app for broadband will be digital movies. We're almost there; maybe next year. The son of the company (that laid me off) president, last year, was already downloading half the new movies he wanted to see and skipping the theater.)

I think it's more saturation. There aren't enough people in many exurban areas -- let alone rural -- to justify the enormous expense of new infrastructure. The urban areas got built up by investors who are about to have their shirts handed back to them as some shredded string in an envelope. The competition gone, as the article notes, the Baby Bells are starting to charge (arguably) more realistic prices for their service. At that price point, they've achieve saturation, that's all. It's still growing.

If you're holding out for fiber optic, with a very few exceptions, you're going to be on a modem for a very long time.
posted by dhartung at 11:24 AM on August 27, 2001

I think it's more saturation. There aren't enough people in many exurban areas -- let alone rural -- to justify the enormous expense of new infrastructure

Indeed. Remember, were it not for regulation of universal phone service, much of non-urban America might never have even gotten telephones in the first place. The same is true for the Electrification Act and electrical service.
posted by briank at 11:29 AM on August 27, 2001

My problem now is with some of the broadband folks trying to get the government to subsidize broadband access. Somehow I think there are more pressing needs to society than being able to download music faster...
posted by owillis at 11:32 AM on August 27, 2001

(The real killer app for broadband will be digital movies. We're almost there; maybe next year. The son of the company (that laid me off) president, last year, was already downloading half the new movies he wanted to see and skipping the theater.)

Are we talking bootleg films or legitimately available ones? And to watch on a computer screen? Only the geek class will enjoy the tiny screen experience. And Hollywood has already learned lessons from Napster, so I think you're mistaken.
posted by ParisParamus at 11:45 AM on August 27, 2001

I don't think bootleg movies will reach Napster-like levels due to the unsatisfying experience of watching a movie on a pc screen. On the other hand, I think TV shows will be digitized and traded more - because they're short and we dont tend to expect super-duper hollywood quality image clarity. There are already tons of Friends, Seinfeld and Dark Angel (yum!) episodes floating around out there.
posted by owillis at 12:16 PM on August 27, 2001

I would pay anything that I could afford to have/maintain a broadband connection. And I would never go back to a dial-up connection--I'd give up the web first.
posted by rushmc at 12:20 PM on August 27, 2001

in an un-monopolized state things can only be priced at what the market considers them to be worth. that is their value. if the market wont pay high prices for the inevitable saturation of broadband then they will get it cheaper and in the process many companies will go bust. in such a scenario it will take much longer for the saturation to happen, but it will happen nevertheless.
posted by Kino at 12:25 PM on August 27, 2001

read this in the wall street journal last week:

A sampling of municipalities that have built their own fiber-optic networks:

Alameda, Calif.
Ashland, Ore.
Braintree, Mass.
Chattanooga, Tenn.
Coldwater, Mich.
Gainesville, Fla.
Harlan, Iowa
LaGrange, Ga.
Tacoma, Wash.
Wadsworth, Ohio
posted by kliuless at 1:12 PM on August 27, 2001

Broadband? Huh?

Here in Latin America we haven't even catched the first wave of it.

Alternatives to dial-up have been slow - as in turtle slow- on implementation, and in those areas that do offer broadband service price is so ridiculousy high (about 3-4 times that of a DSL connection in the USA) that adoption is rather heavily discouraged and is well off the average Latinamerican family income scope.

I really hope this state of things change sooner than later, but it's quite evident deregulations and legal issues halting these broadband services from sprouting don't advance at the same speed as the Internet.
posted by betobeto at 1:13 PM on August 27, 2001

The real killer app for broadband will be digital movies.

Will be? Maybe, but the whole point of DSL technology, particularly ADSL, in the first place was to enable phone companies to offer movies on demand and compete with the cable companies. It didn't work very well, and nobody wanted it. So to a large degree what we have now is a failed product that has been re-purposed for high speed internet. It would be kinda ironic then if video on demand ended up saving the broadband industry after all, eh?
posted by spilon at 2:45 PM on August 27, 2001

Where is dial-up $9.95?

If you look, you can find it. I'm not going to get all commercial on MeFi and start naming providers. And if not $9.95, then $12.95 or $14.95. I might have imagined that any company that can get away with charging $30/month for dialup is taking advantage of some seriously rural customer base, but clearly not, if they have the infrastructure available for cable. The very concept is disturbing to me on its face.

In any case, I don't think that it's a problem that broadband providers are going out of business -- someone is always going to be available to get the primary capability into the houses and the businesses, if only the local telecom. What's problematic is that the business is fraught with such horror stories and crappy service that unless you are extremely hooked into downloading extraordinarily large files (likely pirated material, at that) it isn't worth the hassle to wade through the process of getting connected in the first place.
posted by Dreama at 3:25 PM on August 27, 2001

Wow, some of you folks don't get around the net too often do you? You really must look around more and you will find a TON of stuff that makes broadband worthwhile. Anything with streaming media of any kind (movies, music, animation, etc, etc), anything with large graphics, anything at all.

Broadband is not dependent on napster or its clones, nor is it dependent on streaming movies taking off. Broadband is dependent on the providers actually making it available at a reasonable price.

Yes some providers will start up and then immediately sink without a trace. What short memories so many have. I seem to remember ISPs doing the same thing and if you want to go deeper into the dark depths of history, think video rental stores - exactly the same concept.

I have had DSL for nearly a year and I will NEVER EVER go back to dial-in. For the first part of that year, my employer still had dial-in. It was HELL at work!

Now do you have to get a high speed connection? Nah, you can suffer with your narrow-mindedness if you like, but you don't have a clue what you're missing. There's a whole world out there on the web and it's worth seeing more of.
posted by Option1 at 4:32 PM on August 27, 2001

I find it moderately humorous that you can now get bandwidth in your home for $40-$50 that is equivalent to that for which you'd have paid $1000-2000, or more, five years ago -- and people are bitching about how it's too expensive.
posted by kindall at 4:46 PM on August 27, 2001

never had a problem with my cable connection... well, never in the past 6 months i've had it. but no way i could go back to dialup... won't do it, can't do it.. $40 is worth it.
posted by lotsofno at 5:18 PM on August 27, 2001

T-1 at work. 28.8 at home. Yes, I said 28.8 - best the local phone lines can support. I know which I prefer and which I'd happily pay for - were it available. Only alternative is a very expensive satellite option.

How come they can say there's no demand for broadband when large chunks of the country can't even get it and decide for themselves?
posted by normy at 5:24 PM on August 27, 2001

cable internet is very popular here in canada it seems. it's also quite a bit cheaper than in the states, i.e. $40 canadian as opposed to US dollars, so the affordability is attracting new households. dialup already seems like a thing of the past.
posted by dai at 5:24 PM on August 27, 2001

I recently signed up for DSL with Verizon. After researching my provider options, clearly going with a provider other than a baby Bell was risky. Verizon owns the digital switch (read: local phone service provider). Any other DSL provider wanting to hook me up has to get their equipment into Verizon's switch room, and have Verizon provide a suitable line. I doubt Verizon would expedite a competitor's work request. I read that this tactic slows competitors' order down weeks and month's.

DSL vs. Dialup - DSL. I would not go back to dialup. To fast. To fun. (BMW Movies). Can't enjoy this with < 56k!

DSL and any other broadband service where you get a dedicated IP address brings many new issues, (hackers, viruses, firewalls) that dialup services usually take care of. Some people can't or will not deal with this. Installation, even the so called self-install kits, is an all day event. They need a true plug and play to reach more of the masses.
posted by hockeyman at 5:51 PM on August 27, 2001

until a few weeks ago, I was in a similar situation to normy. T-1 @ work, 33.6 @ home. the crushing part is that I live only a few blocks from my work. but somehow I couldn't get DSL, and cable only came in a few weeks ago.

when I moved in, ATT@home said 3 months, tops. well, that was 9 months ago.

I don't think it's just a matter of low demand. I'm amazed at how many of the less technically-inclined people that I work with, who live in this same area, are hungry for high-speed internet. I think it comes from working in an environment where the internet is as easy as water or light.

that's one of the things I miss most about living in Tacoma WA, btw - not just one, but two cable co's providing internet. ::sigh::
posted by epersonae at 5:56 PM on August 27, 2001

"Broadband for the same price as dial-up? Where on the planet is this? When you can get local dial-up for $9.95/month, unlimited use, I have suspicions about similarly priced broadband."

Hence the bankruptcy of some broadband providers of recent.
posted by jcterminal at 6:11 PM on August 27, 2001

I don't think there's broadband anywhere for $9.95, jcterminal; Dreama made an incorrect assumption when I said my mother paid as much for a dialup as for broadband (in this case, $29.95).
posted by briank at 6:47 PM on August 27, 2001

There's always the "next big thing". I mentioned Bluetooth technology in another topic, which will be what DSL is to dial-up now.

Imagine a world connected with no wires....a girl can certainly dream....
posted by soynuts at 10:53 PM on August 27, 2001

Argh ... no don't take it away ... I only just got it.

Seriously though, somehow I think there are more pressing needs to society than being able to download music faster ... damnit! It makes the *pages* download faster too! It makes *everything* download faster. It's my answer to over six years of cursing at the monitor ... if you connect more than once a day and look at any sites apart from this one, you probably want it at any price.

Disclaimer: I pay 2.5 times the price to download 10 times as fast as a 56K modem, and I think I'm lucky. I'm one of the lucky people in Europe who can even get DSL, and I will be loading buckshot if anyone comes near my phone line with the intention of disconnecting it. Coincidentally, I know someone who still connects to the net using a 9600 Baud modem and an Amstrad Word Processor, but he probably deserves everything he [fails to] get.

Bluetooth is going to be the next big thing? 802.11b, anyone?
posted by walrus at 10:01 AM on August 28, 2001

Thanks for the links walrus. I guess you told me.

Please bear in mind that Bluetooth is open-source. It is available to any incorporated business to modify at will. The 'lack of interoperablilty' ZDNet mentioned in the first article is to be expected while the technology is still in its testing phase.

Regarding Wi-Fi - don't you think it's possible, plausible, and downright obvious that the technology could have been built on the Bluetooth open source?
posted by soynuts at 12:06 PM on August 28, 2001

I thought Bluetooth was way too short-range for 802.11-type applications.

Meanwhile, cable modems are moving on up to 10Gbps. Yes, that's GIGAbits per second.
posted by kindall at 1:07 PM on August 28, 2001

Hmmm, I seem to have memories of Bluetooth being called "the next big thing" for something like two years now. I guess at least it's got staying power in the hype department.
posted by Option1 at 3:37 PM on August 28, 2001

"the next big thing" planned by engineers and marketers often is subsumed by "the thing people actually use" (see tv, interactive/Active Desktop or Constellation/etc).
posted by owillis at 5:27 PM on August 28, 2001

I guess you told me.

Well I didn't mean it in a snarky way. It just occurs to me that I can do slightly funkier network things with 802.11b than I can with Bluetooth, although I probably would rather use Bluetooth to connect my mobile phone to my laptop or PDA for instance.
posted by walrus at 5:36 PM on August 28, 2001

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