Saturday, May 20, 2006

Should we call it "medium band?"

In 1996, while the use of 56.6 Kbps dial up was growing, most people were still using 28.8 Kbps. So when we, in the cable industry, introduced 3.0 Mbps high speed data, we could say that it was 100 times faster than most people were using, and 50 times faster than almost anyone, except for those with access to a T1 line, which worked at about 1.5 Mbps. Now, ten years later almost everyone claims to be offering "broadband." However, this covers a very wide range. The cell-phone companies offer wireless data over EV-DO and similar networks which allow downstream speed of 500-700 Kbps. Phone companies offer DSL at up to 1.5 Mbps. Most cable companies routinely offer 3 Mbps, while Cablevision's "Boost" line provides up to 30 Mbps (with upstream speeds of 2 Mbps, vs. a more typical 256 Kbps).

So now the difference between the fastest and slowest "broadband" is about 50 times - the same difference as between fast dial up and the original broadband. As speeds available to consumers continue to climb, I believe that it becomes inappropriate to describe both by the same word. We either have to create a new descriptor for the 30 Mbps service or abandon "broadband" for services of 3 Mbps or less.

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