Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Where are the Broadband Apps?

Some people probably just can’t understand why more than 70 percent of Americans are happy with their existing broadband service. The usual explanation for this state of affairs (besides blaming people for being "dumb") is that there are no applications driving consumer demand because broadband is too slow to allow for higher bandwidth applications.

Experience from markets where 10 Mbps to 100 Mbps service is available suggest it is applications that lag, even when bandwidth is not a particular problem. After 10 years, what truly important applications have developed in markets such as South Korea, for example? You might point to gaming or video on demand.

But some of us would argue those are relatively trivial innovations. They don't seem to change a nation's productivity, and neither of those apps are "new" things we hadn't thought of before.

With over 40 million broadband homes since 2008 with more than 6 Mbps of connectivity, one would expect that there would be more applications that require and thrive at 6 Mbps, some would argue. There arguably are new things people do that involve piracy (content), and there might be some premium subscription services that have at least some penetration.

Don't get me wrong; it is entertaining to watch YouTube or Hulu. I'm just not sure that was what we generally had in mind when we have argued that huge pipes would lead to all sorts of interesting and socially or economically useful new developments. New ways to watch television are interesting to lots of people and companies, to be sure.

But was that what you had in mind?

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