Gig.U, Gigabit to the Home

Gig.U is on track. That’s cool.

I’ll be very interested if Gigabit Ethernet to the home makes a difference to the ordinary home user. I’ll go on record and say that I don’t think it will. The Gig.U experiment might come up with novel and interesting uses that can’t be met by a 10 or 100Mbps home connection, but if the interesting & novel new uses for high bandwidth to the home show up, they will not radically change ordinary home users lives.

Once you get above about 6Mbps to the home, what makes a difference to the home user isn’t bandwidth, it’s data caps & quotas. If I have a 6Mbps internet connection with a high data cap (like Comcast’s 250GB cap), I can radically change how I consume information. If I have higher bandwidth connection but a low data cap (like a 2GB cap on a 3G/4G phone or the 50GB caps imposed by other ISP’s), I can’t fundamentally change how I consume information/media. That’s why I don’t care if my phone is 3G or 4G. In either case it’s still a 2GB cap, so It’s still a handicapped phone. Because it’s capped, It’s not capable of changing my lifestyle.

In short: 

  • Low caps prevent high bandwidth from being a game changer.
  • Faster bandwidth is irrelevant unless it is accompanied by a higher cap/quota. Without a high cap/quota, we are not going to change how we access information.
  • Slower bandwidth with a higher cap can dramatically change how we access information, and therefor is more valuable than faster bandwidth with a lower cap.

As I’ve written before
  • Network access should be ubiquitous. That means everywhere, no excuses.
  • Moderate speeds and ubiquitous coverage is more important than high speeds with sporadic coverage. 
  • Low access costs are essential - under $40/month, for example. Tiered access is OK, if you want cheap, you give up fast. 
  • Low end (4Mbps) broadband is like electricity, it’s a necessity, and even the poorest of society should have access to it. 
  • There have to be reasonable quotas. Comcast’s 250GB/month quota is quite reasonable. Others are not. 
Broadband access like the railroads on the prairie. When the railroads got built, you either made sure they went through your town or your town died. That’ll happen with broadband too, communities that have incumbent telco/cable providers that do not deliver low cost, ubiquitous broadband will shrivel up and die, much like the communities that got bypassed by the railroads.

FWIW – At work I have GigE to the desktop connected to a GigE LAN that uplinks to a 10Gig backbone that is connected to multiple Tier 1 ISP’s at multi-gigabit or 10Gigabit speeds, but none of that has made any difference in how I work, how much work I get done or what I do at work.

What has made a difference?