The Future of Broadband
By Dana Greenlee,
co-Host WebTalkGuys Radio
Wednesday, December 3, 2003; 12:00pm EST
Those of us who spend the majority of our waking hours on the Internet
have developed some pretty iron-clad expectations. We want to get
where we are going quickly. We no longer tolerate slow-loading Web
pages. We start rolling our eyes if that Microsoft flag waves too long
or the little blue �E� on our browser revolves more than twice. Don�t
break my surfing rhythm and do not make me wait.
There is a reason many studies show broadband users spend more
time online on any given day than those with dial-up
connections. We need the speed and, ironically, we don�t get in,
get out and move on, but rather go more places for longer
stretches of time than our frustrated compatriots using dial-up
who find their minds wandering while waiting for everything to
load with a slow connection.
A speedier Internet means more productivity, more windows can be
open and more tasks can be juggled simultaneously. That�s the
message Andy King conveys through his monthly Bandwidth Report,
published online at
http://www.websiteoptimization.com/bw, where he reports on
the speed of our connections, both at work and at home.
King is president of
WebSiteOptimization.com and author of �Speed Up Your Site:
Web Site Optimization.� He is also the founder of
Website. It�s tied in with, among other things, having access to
the Internet via broadband like DSL and cable. He took a few
minutes to talk about his latest
Bandwidth Report and how U.S. broadband adoption compares to
the rest of the world.
Q: Your October
Bandwidth Report shows that broadband adoption is breaking 40
percent in the U.S. What are your thoughts on that?
King: It�s great! It�s an important time since it shows
broadband is really making headway.
Q: Your Bandwidth Report growth chart predicts it will grow
to 70 percent in just a year or so.
King: I do some extrapolation on the growth chart. I�m an
engineer so I like doing that kind of thing. If you look at
July-August 2005 we could be at 70 percent, assuming it grows at
the same rate. It�s safe to say this coming summer we�ll break
What I found looking at other countries is there seems to be a
saturation level. Korea says they�re approaching 70 percent,
depending on whom you talk to, and they�re reaching saturation.
There are a few outposts and rural areas that just aren�t going
to get hooked up unless they get a satellite dish.
Q: What other things do you see holding up the adoption of
King: I think the main thing is price and complexity. The
price keeps going down, which is good, but it�s sort of a teaser
price. They will give it to you for six months and then they
will bump it up to $49.95. That�s a good chunk of change. Also,
some folks are having trouble hooking up. Cable seems to be much
simpler. That�s why cable has twice the penetration in the U.S.
as DSL does. I think the simpler they can make it, the faster it
Q: People in rural areas are anxious for broadband but it is
just not available to them. Will there be a point when broadband
is in every area?
King: I�m not sure they�re going to be everywhere. I don�t
think you will be able to get it at the bottom of Death Valley
any time soon. They are focusing on where they can get the most
bang for their buck. It�s really a �last-mile� problem. We
actually have a cottage up in Canada and the only way we can get
broadband is to get a satellite dish.
Q: How is satellite as an option for people? Is it
King: Actually the price keeps going down. Satellite dishes
offer fairly good download speeds. Upload speeds are different
story. The best option is to have broadband wired directly into
Q: Wireless is a big frontier opportunity for broadband as we
look into the future. Do you see wireless starting to pick up
steam or will the United States be the backwater of wireless
broadband compared to the rest of the world?
King: Yes. They are definitely ahead of us overseas. But if
Starbucks and McDonald�s have their way, we�ll have wireless
Q: Your Bandwidth Report offers a sort of world tour. Tell us
why the world is picking up on broadband a little bit faster
than the U.S.
King: If you go to the Pacific Rim, Korea, Hong Kong, you�ll
see they have higher penetration rates than we do. Canada is
well ahead of us, too. They were at 60 percent broadband
penetration just a few months ago. Thailand is up there, too, as
is Denmark and Belgium. In my September Bandwidth Report (websiteoptimization.com/bw/0309),
I have a chart from the ITU (International Telecommunication
Union). Iceland is even ahead of us, believed or not.
Q: Why are these other countries adopting broadband faster
than we are?
King: Some countries realized it is a strategic advantage to
do this, so they�ve gotten a bit of a head start on us. I think
they�ve relaxed some government regulations and done some
subsidies. It is a combination of things.
Also, if you look at other countries, DSL has kind of slipped.
In the U.S., cable has twice the penetration of DSL. But if you
go to Korea, it�s all DSL. That�s how they get connected.
They�ve also made it simpler to connect.
Q: Still, 56k modems are popular with 49.7 percent in the
U.S. Most people are getting online with a dial-up connection.
King: Yes. If you add up all the modems it�s about 60
percent. It�s amazing that 3 percent are still using a 14.4k
modem. I still have some in the drawer. People are welcome to
buy them from me! But some folks don�t have much of a choice.
They can�t upgrade or maybe they are in a school with donated
computers or maybe they are using a wireless phone that gets
9600 baud. You really have to design Websites for the worst-case
scenario. That�s why I did that the bandwidth report - because
there was so much data out there but I didn�t see any good
numbers or charts. So I publish reports so that people know that
not everyone is on broadband � at least in the U.S.
Q: You wrote a book called �Speed Up Your Site: Web Site
Optimization.� Why is it important for Webmasters to go through
the process of making their side optimized for download? What
are some of the benefits?
King: No matter what your bandwidth, people are only willing
to wait a certain amount for your site to download before they
get frustrated and want to go do something else. To boil it
down, people hate to wait. My background as an engineer is in
the optimization of structures. So it�s kind of a natural
extension to apply that efficiency to the Web. The first part of
the book talks about psychology and creates a need, so you can
show that part to your boss. It summarizes all the research out
there that shows slow download speeds are the most popular
complaint of people surfing the Internet. It really doesn�t
matter what your bandwidth is � you just don�t want to wait!
People wait eight to 10 seconds. After that, people�s eyes glaze
over and they start thinking about other things. It has to do
with how are short-term memory works. As your are going through
the Web, you get into a sort of flow. If you�re working on a
fast series of web sites, you get into a rhythm and when you run
into a slow site, it disrupts your train of thought and it�s
Source of Article
Dana Greenlee is producer and co-host of the WebTalkGuys Radio
Show. WebTalkGuys, a Seattle-based talk show featuring
technology news and interviews. It is broadcast on WebTalkGuys Radio,
Sonic Box, via Pocket PC at Mazingo Networks and the telephone via the
Mobile Broadcast Network. It's on the radio in Seattle at KLAY
1180 AM. Past show and interviews are also webcast via the
http://www.webtalkguys.com/. Greenlee is also a member of the The
International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences.