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Discussion Board

Ubiquitous Connectivity

For a few years, I've found myself in conversations with
people in which one of the participants blurts out:

  "Well, that's all going to change in a year or two when
  everyone has a high speed connection."

What is this forum's opinion of that statement? 

Thomas R. Dial
Wednesday, October 2, 2002

What is this forum's opinion of that statement?

To be honest, I doubt it. That kind of statement has been thrown around for quite a few years...

In Australia, while customer penetration of cable and ADSL is getting better, there still seems to be a sizeable segment of the market that says 'why do I need it?'

With the cost being around AUS$1000 a year (about 2.5% of an average wage) it is hard to justify for many people (including myself). Until price for cable / ADSL comes close to that of dial-up (the 'good enough' solution) I think targetting the average dial-up user is a better proposition than assuming the client base will suddenly go broadband...


Matthew Wills
Wednesday, October 2, 2002

Many companies in countries other than Australia are pulling out of cheap high bandwidth and starting to charge by the body part, and it's going to get worse. The thing with Aus is they skipped the cheap part and went straight for your first born. IMHO the number of new ppl signing up for high bandwidth connections is going to decrease unless the service providers stop grabbing for cash, which is highly unlikely.

Jack lives over there ->
Thursday, October 3, 2002

I read something on over a year ago, and the article made reference to a survey that had found that over half of internet users surveyed said they wouldn't be interested in broadband at ANY price.

That may seem a bit outstanding, but a lot of people use the internet almost exclusively for email. On top of that the great majority of online offerings are pretty poor (see for a discussion on this).

The whole "when every one has always on superfast..." is a lazy lie, because:
* you can make compelling sites today.
* even with ADSL, etc video is hardly watchable over broadband.
* the people selling that line want the Internet to be TV-like so they don't have to make the effort to understand the Internet and use it for what it is (an alternative media that is potentially, truely interactive; not passive).
* Flash intros will balloon out to multi-gig file sizes.

Walter Rumsby
Thursday, October 3, 2002

The appeal to faster connections was often made by people who just didn't understand internet or software development.

Because they didn't know how to optimise their content or do active applications, they would put the blame on slow connections. Television people were like this, and some types of graphic designers. The types of people who embed a 2MB logo in a 1 paragraph company memo.

Engineer and Designer
Thursday, October 3, 2002

Not only do more users need to get high bandwidth, but bandwidth cost have to come way down. You can easily spend $100,000 a month dishing out semi-popular high bandwidth apps today, though not so easily earn that back (in most online industry segments that is, errmm..).

The stupidity of the 90's may have sent broadband backwards I think. Everyone had vast amounts of cash, so charging/paying ga-billions for the latest infastructure hardware was desireable. The hey-days are gone, but the debt lingers, so I doubt most providers are in a position to lower the price of anything - at least until they pay off all the stupid things they spent cash on in the past. I think that has really interfered with the natural growth of it all. In China they are rolling out large amounts of broadband now, without stupid debt, based on actual need, and its only $15/month and very fast - and that is as gov't owned rollout too.

Robin Debreuil
Thursday, October 3, 2002

I live in the UK, a 30-minute drive from work and 20 minutes from a major city (Southampton) with a lot of high-tech companies. In the city & suburbs, both DSL and cable modem broadband are available. <20km away, nothing. No prospect of the phone exchange ever being DSL-enabled. No cable TV. Mobile signal at my location (in a valley) marginal at best. No drains or natural gas either :-(

I currently use ISDN for net connection. Broadband options come down to satellite, which costs the earth and still uses dial-up for the back channel, GPRS - expensive and not particularly fast - and vague future mutterings of radio mesh networks. Of course I still get the junk mails with my phone bill telling my of the wonderful things I can do with ADSL...

Connectivity may be getting ubiquitous, but that doesn't mean ubiquitously fast.

It should be possible to inform a web server of the sad state of affairs & have it tailor the content accordingly:

X-connection-type: Piece-of-string-and-two-tin-cans

Max Hadley
Thursday, October 3, 2002

So ASDL is too expensive in Australia at 2.5% of an average salary.

In Saudi, if you can get it, it is around 10% of an average salary. In Sri Lanka a modem connection is 25% of average salary, and the phone costs for two hours a day another 60% of average salary.

So much for ubiquity!

Stephen Jones
Thursday, October 3, 2002

Well the reason internet access is a higher percentage of income in third world countries is not because of corporate greed but because average incomes are much smaller. Smaller average incomes doesn't make technology suddenly become cheaper to compensate. If those countries want internet access to be a smaller percentage of income, they should stop thwarting their citizens efforts to better themselves.

Thursday, October 3, 2002

Despite some optimistic figures I've seen (citing that the
US broadband subscription rate has roughly doubled in
the last 6 months) I don't think there are probably enough
data points to draw an exponential curve yet.  As
someone implied, I've found that the people who say
things like this (George Gilder! George Gilder!) tend
exaggerate the ramifications of every "new new" thing.

I thought it might be interesting to ask other developers
since ultimately, the adoption of new technology
contributes to what developers choose to develop!

I feel like I can rest easy for now though, and not worry
about the brave new world of total fast connectivity.  After
all, looking out my window, I don't see any flying cars,
cheap video phones, or travel agencies with low-price
packages to Mars, all things that many people thought
we'd have by now.

PS - IS there any standard for a client identifying its
connection speed?  That would be great.

Thomas R. Dial
Thursday, October 3, 2002

Here's a data point; don't know if this is common.
I have a dialup connection at home. I like it. It's a bit pricey ($20-$25/month) IMO but the provider does a good job of filtering out spam, they answer the phone if I call them, and they offer nice extras like multiple emails and small ad-free bins to stuff files and personal html stuff via ftp, with a little bit of cgi support too. Nothing fancy, but decent. Also, I never get a busy signal.

Now there are also some getups where I can pay only $10-15-month but they do not provide any of the things I have mentioned or of less quality than I get. So I am willing to pay a bit more for better quality.

There's also the option of a cable-modem. It's actually only a tiny bit more than a dial-up account - $25-$30/month. Neighbors have it and it works for them.

The interesting thing is that I am not interested.
You might ask if I would be interested if it was the same price I am paying now. The answer is no.
What if it was $15/month for high-speed cable modem? Would I switch? Nope.
What about $10? $5? $2/month? Nope nope nope.
What about free? Would I accept a cable modem in my house if it was FREE?
Would you be surprised to learn that is so? Is it because I am stupid? Am I a luddite? Why on earth would I refuse highspeed internet access if it was free?

Can anyone guess?

Sarain H.
Thursday, October 3, 2002

It depends how fast the "fast" they're talking about is.  Except for slightly annoying price problems, virtually everyone can be on DSL/Cable; but DSL/Cable aren't anywhere near fast enough for, say, full-screen video on demand.

Jason McCullough
Thursday, October 3, 2002

> Can anyone guess?

Cable connections are less reliable than telephones... I've had about 6 days of cable outage in the last year, including all of last night.

> I think targetting the average dial-up user is a better proposition than assuming the client base will suddenly go broadband...

What tools do *you* use then for remote control and software development... Telnet? :-)

Christopher Wells
Thursday, October 3, 2002

When I started using email as a kid, we had a 300 Baud
acoustic coupler at my house, and you could literally
see the characters of your email message coming
across.  I'm sure people here know what I'm talking

I remember when Prodigy came out and my Dad and
I were just disgusted.  Pictures?  Hell!  It took forever
to load everything.  We dropped Prodigy and stayed
with our local BBS. 

Maybe the bandwidth available is irrelevant; the rate at
which we learn to waste it seems to increase according
to Moore's law as well.

Thomas R. Dial
Friday, October 4, 2002


That's an excellant guess and true enough but is actually not as much a factor as the big problems I am thinking of. Also, I think the cable companies will probably solve that problem eventually.

There are many issues I have with high-speed connections but the two that are deal-makers for me are:

1. Security
2. Privacy

Cable modems do not provide either of these in an acceptable manner and I am not sure that the problem can even be fixed.

Sarain H.
Friday, October 4, 2002



Sarain H.
Friday, October 4, 2002

"What tools do *you* use then for remote control and software development... Telnet?"

Oh, are you asking me this question? I was confused since the quote above the question was someone else.

In case you are asking me, when I do web development from home, I do use telnet and ftp through my low-speed dialup connection.

As a result of this self-imposed limitation, my web sites tend to load pretty quickly and visitors appreciate that. It's not for everyone though.

Sarain H.
Friday, October 4, 2002

Ed is partially right when he states that the reason for the high proportion of average income that internet connectivity costs is a result of the much lower wages in the countires concenrned.

But the actual cash price is in general three to ten times higher anyway. The reason for this is that in the developed world there are economies of scale which don't apply in the third world.

The result is that the cost of connectivity increases, there is a knock on price in the cost of everything else, and the gap between rich and poor nations increases again. The average gap between rich and poor nations was in the region of three to one in the nineteenth century; it is now in the region of 25 to one and increasing all the time.

Now connectivity is increasing - internet cafes are still expensive in the very poor countries, but text messaging is taking off like nobodies business. Biut of course there are large tracts of all third world countries that are out of range of a mobile phone, and they are often the villages where there  is no fixed telephone line either.

And even in the developed world there are large proportions of the population that are not going to get broadband anyway. Korea is the world leader for broadband (50% of families have it) because half of the population live in the seven largest cities, normally in high rise apartments, and the total fibre optic mileage for Korea is less than that of the state of Virginia.

So I suggest that web developers bear in mind that the figures for broad band are unlikely to increase much over 20% of the US or Europe, and that most users are going to be downloading over slow phone lines (and on occasion as slow as 10kb/s in internet cafes).

Stephen Jones
Friday, October 4, 2002

"1. Security 2. Privacy. Cable modems do not provide either of these in an acceptable manner and I am not sure that the problem can even be fixed."

Sarain, can you explain this? I'm using a cable modem, the first thing I did was install some firewall software of course, but I don't feel that my security or privacy is being violated. Certainly no more so than with my old (fixed IP) dial-up connection.

Note: this cable modem connection costs me the equivalent of 30 GBP per month. I can understand your implication that a "free" connection will never _really_ be free (so they must be selling you personal data, or something) but I don't see why a cable modem is inherently less secure/private than a dial-up.

Adrian Gilby
Wednesday, October 9, 2002

Cable modems are less secure because, with a dialup, the data goes directly from you to your ISP - it's point to point.

Cable modems are like an ethernet bus - everyone on the same segment (probably your entire neighborhood) can see your packets if they listen in.

This is also why cable modem speeds go down at night - the bandwidth is shared by everyone on the segment, and more people are home and using it at night.

Chris Tavares
Wednesday, October 9, 2002

Are you sure everyone on your segment can see your packets?

I would have thought that the cable modem itself acts something like a router. That is, the cable modem itself might see everyone's packets, but only packets destined for your PC will get sent to your PC.

Thus, can you explain how, using my standard PC-with-ethernet-card, I can see everyone's packets?

Adrian Gilby
Thursday, October 10, 2002

You simply set your modem/NIC to promiscuous mode...or exchange it for a packet sniffer.

Dunno Wair
Thursday, October 10, 2002

...which, unless I'm mistaken, won't see any packets on the "other side" of the cable modem. Therefore, you'll see all the data being passed around your home network, but none of the data being passed around the segment by other users.

Unless hardware "cable modem packet sniffers" are easy to get hold of?

Adrian Gilby
Thursday, October 10, 2002

Nope.  So you can be sure that anyone who goes to the trouble of acquiring/fabricating one doesn't have altruistic intentions...hence the security risk.

Dunno Wair
Thursday, October 10, 2002

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