In 1999, maybe 50 million US households had dial-up Internet access at 56 kbps speeds. In 2006, there are 50 million Broadband subscribers, with 3-10 mbps speeds. This is roughly a 100X improvement in 7 years, causing a massive increase in the utility of the Internet over this period. The question is, can we get an additional 10X to 30X improvement in the next 4 years, to bring us the next generation of Internet functionality? Let's examine some new technological deployments in home Internet access.
Verizon's high-speed broadband service, known as FIOS, is currently available to about 3 million homes across the US, with downstream speeds of 5 Mbps available for $39.95/month and higher speeds available for greater prices. How many people subscribe to this service out of the 3 million who have the option is not publicly disclosed.
However, Verizon will be upgrading to a more advanced fiber-to-the-home standard that will increase downstream speeds by 4X and upstream speeds by 8X. Verizon predicts that this upgrade will permit it to offer broadband service at 50 or even 100 Mbps to homes on its FIOS network. Furthermore, the number of homes with access to FIOS service will rise from the current 3 million to 6 million by the end of 2006.
Verizon's competitors will, of course, offer similar speeds and prices shortly thereafter.
The reason this is significant is that if falls precisely within the concept of the Impact of Computing. The speed of the Internet service increases by 4X to 8X, while the number of homes with access to it increases by 2X, for an effective 8X to 16X increase in Impact, and the associated effects on society. High-definition video streaming, video blogging, video wikis, and advanced gaming will all emerge as rapidly adopted new applications as a result.
We often hear about how Japan and South Korea already have 100 Mbps broadband service while the US languishes at 3-10 Mbps with little apparent progress. True, but Africa has vast natural resources and Taiwan, Israel, and Switzerland do not. Which countries make better use of the advantages available to them? In the same way, South Korea and Japan may have a lot of avid online gamers, but have not made use of their amazing high-speed infrastructure to create businesses in the last 2 years like Google Adwords, Zillow, MySpace, Wikipedia, etc. The US has spawned these powerful consumer technologies even with low broadband speeds, due to our innovation and fertile entrepreneurial climate that exceeds even that of advanced nations like Japan and South Korea. Just imagine the innovations that will emerge with the greatly enhanced bandwidth that will soon be available to US innovators.
Give the top 80 million American households and small businesses access to 50 Mbps Internet connections for $40/month by 2010, and they will produce trillions of dollars of new wealth, guaranteed.