Weblog on the Internet and public policy, journalism, virtual community, and more from David Brake, a Canadian academic, consultant and journalist

Archive forOctober 21st, 2003 | back to home

21 October 2003

An old colleague of mine, “Ian Fogg”:http://weblogs.jupiterresearch.com/analysts/fogg/ (a Jupiter analyst), commented in an “earlier posting”:https://blog.org/archives/000896.html that he didn’t think ‘cheap broadband’ at 150kbps would would ‘really offer the full broadband experience that customers expect’. The reasons he gave were interesting, and reveal I think a kind of ‘supplier led’ thinking that is holding back broadband takeup.

* ‘150kbs is not sufficient for good quality [streamed] mp3 music’
How many people want to listen to streamed music? How many subscribers have services like Real One managed to sign up? If you are at work in a sympathetic company you might use it instead of bringing a radio in to work, but if you are at home you already have a radio! People who really want broadband for music are (I’m guessing) relying on broadband to download tracks either legally or (more probably) illegally.

* ‘To build community around online games, it’s important to enable access to add-on levels, and enable players to host, or run, their own games’ – well, I could see there would be a problem if a broadband games player frequently found they were being asked to download a map from within a game and they then found the ‘game cycles to the next level and the player has missed playing’. But if you found that to be a problem as a player you could also just go off and download the necessary files from one of many fan sites. As for hosting, I have played many, many online games and I have only hosted one or two. As long as one of your friends has ‘proper’ broadband this is not a problem.

* ‘it’s still good value if you care about price and mainly email and web browsing’ [but]… it doesn’t exactly encourage third parties to deliver rich video/audio content and applications … and subscribers that expect broadband to enable a richer online experience will be disappointed.’

Aha! But we’re not talking here about what subscribers *should* want from their broadband in order to support a healthy industry – we’re talking about what they *actually want*. And all the evidence I have seen is that what subscribers value most from broadband is always on/instant on connection, better web browsing and no arguments about who is on the line. A smaller segment may value download of large files but if you no longer need to worry about the ‘clock ticking’ on your connection does it really matter if that game demo comes down in the background in four hours or two?

My personal view is that the only commercial service that would cause a substantial increase in the desire for ‘true broadband’ would be something like iTunes but for TV and movie content. (And yes I know you can already download movies but so far this is very much a minority sport because of bandwidth problems).

My guess about the best way to boost broadband takeup is to a) offer it at £15 a month with speed limits (but no publicised download caps) and b) offer free three month trials – I imagine enough of the people who get it would keep it that this would pay for the installation costs for the few who tried and rejected it.

Of course I may be wrong – I am basing this largely on my own experience, friends, gut instinct and (to a lesser extent) on the ‘iSociety’s broadband research’:http://www.theworkfoundation.com/pdf/broadband.pdf

If there is, however, evidence that the consumer wants what the broadband content industry wants them to want then please bring it on!