Thursday, August 26, 2010

Time to relegate "broadband" to the history books

The term "broadband" is outdated and should be retired.

It came into wide use a decade and a half ago to denote a premium telecommunications service on the publicly switched telephone network (PSTN) that provided a faster, "always on" Internet connection compared to now obsolete "narrowband" dialup and ISDN service.

The Internet is now a de facto global telecommunications system providing Internet protocol-based voice and video communications in addition to early "broadband" fare of email and the World Wide Web.

Instead of broadband, we should simply refer to the Internet. The term "broadband' is out of place in the context of today's "Internet ecosystem" to borrow a phrase from the Federal Communications Commission's National Broadband Plan issued in March. (Which should be retiled the "National Internet Plan")

References to "broadband" also pose problems insofar as they spark debates over what bandwidth and speeds constitute "broadband." Its continued use also aids legacy telco and cable industry players who want to keep it around so they can incrementally charge a premium for "broader" bandwidth.

The incumbent legacy providers also like the term "broadband" because it keeps the calendar where they want it: around 1999 when the phrase meant only Web and email — and not the bandwidth intensive applications we're seeing in 2010 that their incomplete and outdated infrastructures are unable to deliver to all customers in their self proclaimed "service areas."

It also helps the incumbents conjure up (and dust off old) self serving studies purportedly showing many folks don't "adopt" broadband because they have little interest in the Web or email. Ergo, it's not critical telecommunications infrastructure should be available to all homes and businesses when in fact it should be.

It's time to say "bye" to "broadband."

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