What Does Major Increases in Broadband Speed Mean?

Yesterday British Telecom (BT) announced that it was accelerating the timetable for delivering increased broadband speeds, promising up to 100 Megabits/second. My current broadband connection delivers between 1.5 to 3 Megabits/second as the house I live in is quite a distance from the nearest exchange. For me this speed is fine: all I do is surf the web and process emails.  However, it lead me to thinking what would be the effect of such speeds.

First, I am sure that it would accelerate cloud access; for example if the response time of a word processor hosted on the Internet is the same as for a word processor situated on a home computer then, provided costs are lower, there would be no competition.  Currently cloud office systems lag somewhat behind the heavy duty package Microsoft Office in terms of functionality; however, with Office 365 entering the fray this year we might see the end of home installed office software as increased broadband speeds kick in.

The second effect will be on home entertainment.  Already BT is using the Internet to stream television with its Vision programme. Netflix is looking to enter the British market soon.  The speeds quoted by BT  enable high definition streaming. If I was a conventional provider of television and film feeds, for example Sky, I would be looking very hard at what this announcement from BT means.

Another home entertainment effect is associated with music. About a year ago I stored all my CDs on a computer drive. I now listen to them on a fine pair of Bose speakers attached to my laptop when I work in my study and via my iPod connected to an amplifier in my living room.  I really thought that I was being state-of-the-art. That is until I saw some stuff on Amazon’s Cloud Drive. Here you store your files in the cloud and use an application called the Amazon Cloud Player to play the music. This is the music analogue of the move towards the office in the cloud. With increased broadband speeds there will be little incentive to store MP3s locally. There may even be models of access that enable the user to rent MP3s for a short period.

One possible future is that with a much greater use of bandwidth there may come a pressure to charge users on volume use just like any other utility. I currently use a broadband plan that gives me unlimited download volumes. I just wonder whether the logic of computer power as a utility will mean that charging will follow the electricity and gas models of charging and this plan will become a fond memory.

Here is an interesting article on the increasing use we make of the broadband in terms of download volume.


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