Prescribing broadband

Apparently when it comes to broadband you're a sceptical lot. A report on broadband uptake from a German research company , which interviewed 1076 people around the world, found that more than half could quite easily imagine online life without broadband.

Apparently when it comes to broadband you're a sceptical lot. A report on broadband uptake from German research company Metrinomics, which interviewed 1076 IT professionals and users around the world, found that more than half could quite easily imagine online life without broadband.

This goes against everything many have been saying about attitudes to broadband for a while now. It's intriguing to me, as someone with a broadband connection that you'd have to pry out of my cold, dead fingers.

Entertainingly, the report also backs up my own belief that telcos have got the whole issue of content completely wrong.

"Consumers are significantly less interested in content offers than they are in cheap installation: around 70% claim that content provision is unimportant, while 83% considered current installation costs to be a significant barrier to broadband adoption."

Someone might like to mention this to AOL Time Warner. I can believe it though: content online doesn't have to come from a telco. I don't expect Philips, which provides the box, to also provide my TV content. Why should the internet be any different?

The answer to that one is obvious, of course. Without the content there's no differentiation between one bandwidth provider and another. Without content, or something else to tie your "services" to, there's no way of telling whether you're connecting to the rest of the world via Telecom, TelstraClear, Walker Wireless or Joe's Drive-Thru ISP. Bandwidth is bandwidth and it's a commodity. Get used to it.

The report goes on in some detail about the technology of broadband, describing DSL as a "legacy narrowband" leftover and saying most telcos just don't understand what it is that customers want. I can tell you. They want speed. Then they want to be left alone to do whatever it is they want to online. They don't want restrictions because they use the connection "the wrong way". They want to get online quickly at a reasonable price.

Yet despite the large total number of those who say installation costs are too high, 60% of non-broadband respondents say they intend to subscribe to a broadband connection in the next 12 months. That's right -- if that translated to New Zealand we would see a broadband revolution instead of the steady trickling we currently have.

Oh, and managers, be prepared for a revolution. Over 81% of respondents say they want to get broadband so they can work from home. You'll need to develop some new skills to cope with the empty office, you know. Get ready for that as well.

All told it makes for interesting reading. But the question remains as to how accurate such a survey will be in telling the future. New Zealand's particular working conditions make such surveys less than wholly relevant here. No local call charging has always been used as a reason for the lack of broadband take-up but I'm hoping once Walker Wireless goes live with its offering, and if we can see TelstraClear get into the national residential broadband market as well, we might actually see some price movements. There's no motive for such re-evaluation at Telecom at the moment, especially given their share price whoopsie of a few weeks ago.

So, local twists aside, the prescription for broadband development seems simple. Leave content provision to content providers but feel free to work some kind of deal with them to ease access problems.

Build more infrastructure but change the pricing model to encourage users onboard.

Leave the users alone once they do get broadband and they'll happily use up as much bandwidth as they can. There's no need to price-gouge here, as they're happy to pay a reasonable amount for their connectivity.

Users don't cease to exist beyond the CBD, so don't rely too heavily on DSL to make the grade as you'll leave them behind. All money is good when it's coming into your coffers so don't be afraid to listen when a customer says "I'd really like to buy this service/product/suite off you".

Simple, really. Next stop, world peace.

Brislen is IDGNet’s reporter. Send letters for publication in Computerworld to Computerworld Letters.

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