Why you should care about the rise of broadband

Thinking that faster speeds are the equivalent of faster horses is myopic and an attempt to preserve the status quo.

This is one of my favorite business charts.

 

Home broadband vs. dial-up, 2000-2013. Source: Pew Internet & American Life Project

 

As home internet has gotten faster, we have seen new business opportunities emerge. For example:

In 2000-2001, Quokka Sports tried to build a business of streaming sports like sailing online. In 2013, users could watch the America’s Cup and one of the greatest comebacks in sports history live, online, for free.

Traditional network programming has been living uneasily for the past decade as networked homes have spawned multi-channel viewing, while attempts at disruption have emerged from Apple and Google (hardware) and Netflix and YouTube (content).

The networked home is gaining traction; security systems have long been wired into phone lines, but with broadband we are seeing intelligent devices like thermostats, cameras, and door locks as well.

In 2006, right at the tipping point of dial-up vs. broadband, I heard a network television executive remark at an industry conference:

“With more broadband, people will get done with what they need to do online faster, then get back to watching TV. There are only a limited number of things a person can search for.”

In hindsight it’s clear that this person’s remarks were self-serving, maybe even intended as self-preservation. Laugh now, then consider this remark about gigabit-speed Google Fiber:

“What they’re doing is not any different than an overbuilder,” [Time Warner Cable chairman and CEO] Britt said on a conference call with analysts to discuss first quarter results Thursday. “And we’ve had overbuilders for the last several decades in the business.” 

Thinking that faster speeds are the equivalent of faster horses is myopic and an attempt to preserve the status quo.

Now, think about what we are seeing in the mobile world as devices get more powerful and networks get faster. The innovations we’ve seen in that space have only just begun. Brands would be wise to optimize for the present, but be prepared for the business models of the future arriving via faster connection speeds.