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Reasons for broadband

§ New media industry

Internet service providers will have you believe that you need broadband to have access to all the whizzy stuff the Internet can offer: watch video, listen to music, see great imagery, surf at the speed of light, blah, blah, blah. The real reasons people buy and benefit from broadband are somewhat more pragmatic.

Elegant Hack summarises a recent Yahoo! News article which quotes a recent study by Strategy Analytics of broadband households who gave these reasons for their upgrade:

  • Freeing up a phone line
  • A constant connection
  • You can share it (via a network)
  • Faster downloads of files (PPT, etc.)
  • Keeps your PC up-to-date (downloading software updates)

Those are the real persuasions for switching to broadband. The rest of it is misleading claptrap. I watch video on my television and I have quite a nice hi-fi for my music (although I am a bit weird – I like to buy records). If the ISPs were a little more open about the practical reasons for broadband, they might sell a bit more.

And from a developer’s perspective, increasing uptake of broadband is not a reason to ditch all our hard lessons on minimising page weight. Take the whizzy approach and the Web stays as slow as it has ever been. The comedian Ben Elton once used a swing-top bin as a metaphor for widening motorways and the same can be applied to broadband.

Imagine you have a swing-top bin in your kitchen. It’s fine until you have to empty it – a distinctly unpleasant task – so you keep filling it with rubbish until it’s absolutely bursting. If you had a second bin – you think – there wouldn’t be the same problem. But of course you end up with two bins to empty. Now take the M25 (the motorway-cum-car park around London). To ease the traffic jams, surely the most obvious answer is to add a few more lanes. Except those lanes will just fill with more cars – been there, done that. Now think of your broadband connection. ‘Ooh look – ten times as much bandwidth’, the marketeer thinks, ‘Lets fill it with something.’ Wrong. Let’s not fill it with something, let’s allow the existing traffic to move faster.