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Broadband's Unintended Consequences 332

Makarand writes "BBC News is reporting on the result of a long term study conducted to find how ordinary people and small businesses in and around London and Leeds used broadband. They found that broadband was actually slowing down user interaction with the Net as they are no longer afraid of spending too much time online anymore. People did not really care about the speed at which they could download from the Net. Broadband's selling points- like speed and the capacity to be always-on, were something that the average person did not care about."
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Broadband's Unintended Consequences

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  • So... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Exiler ( 589908 ) on Wednesday November 27, 2002 @09:20PM (#4771963)
    Maybe they forgot to plug the modem in... My mom did when she first got broadband and said it was ungodly slow...
    • The Accused Replies (Score:5, Informative)

      by crabbers ( 629971 ) on Thursday November 28, 2002 @05:57AM (#4773854)
      Hello all. Sorry some people on the thread seem to think the bbc story, and by association our research, is dumb. It isn't meant that way. A few points of defence. Firstly, we didn't ask the beeb to run the story, neither did they talk to us, neither did they actually ask me about those quotes. Second, the point in the BBC story which is most innacurate is the paragraph which reads "They found that people did not really care about the speed at which ADSL and cable allowed them to download websites and files. Instead broadband was actually slowing down surfer's interaction with the net." This isn't what we said. We said that speed, as a selling point which made people appreciate and want broadband a lot, was contingent on activities involving heavy data use, or things requiring fast response (like ping rates for gaming). If all you do is send e-mail and surf a little - which if you look at the data this is what most home internet users do, give or take - then a massively fast connections is nicer than dial-up (of course it is), but doesn't actually make for a revolution in internet use. Counterintuitively, a lot of broadband users told us that what they really liked avout it was not having to worry about time, rather than speed. We are talknig about mothers with kids or small business owners here, rather than the type of people who read slashdot. Hence, broadband is not always about speed, but can be about taking it easy. Hence those people who sell broadband as about speed might find that regular users - as opposed to slashdot people - don't buy it. Just in case anyone didn't notice, we also said that broadband wasn't about being always on too.... read the presentation here 0219 the research itself will come out in the spring. If anyone wants to come in for a coffee and give us some pointers, drop me a line jcrabtree {at} theworkfoundation dot com
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 27, 2002 @09:20PM (#4771966)
    Unintended consequences have broadband!
    • by WetCat ( 558132 )
      In Moscow it's pretty common to be able to get broadband via connection of a house to the internet using Ethernet. A majority of people live in apartments (or condos), so concentration of people is high that allow for Ethernet connection to the point of access.
      The price is $35/connection a month AND some cents for a megabyte of incoming/outgoing traffic.
      • According to this [] "most Russians scrape by on an average monthly wage of $144, according to official statistics"

        How many people will pay over 20 percent of their monthly wage for broadband?

  • by 7-Vodka ( 195504 ) on Wednesday November 27, 2002 @09:23PM (#4771973) Journal
    Yeah. Sure. When you already HAVE broadband you don't care too much about the speed. When you're struggling to connect and waiting 3 hours to download something you really need, praying you won't be disconnected again during the transfer; that's when you would give your firstborn for broadband.

    In other news.. People who are constantly fed say they aren't hungry.

    • by vicviper ( 140480 ) on Wednesday November 27, 2002 @09:31PM (#4772017)
      It's not aboot caring aboot speed, it's aboot worring about being hit by per minute fees while online. Those that switched to broadband from dial-up didn't care before or after aboot the speed. As the summary and article say, users are taking their time interacting with the web as they don't have to rush to get on, do what they want to do, and then get off. Yes, if it's pr0n they want, they may be rushing to get off indeed.
      • by Jucius Maximus ( 229128 ) <m4encxb2sw@snk[ ] ['mai' in gap]> on Wednesday November 27, 2002 @10:55PM (#4772353) Journal
        "It's not aboot caring aboot speed, it's aboot worring about being hit by per minute fees while online. Those that switched to broadband from dial-up didn't care before or after aboot the speed."

        That would apply for Europe only. (I do believe that this study examines areas in the UK.)

        I'm in Canada and people here buy broadband for the speed and lower latency since you'd be dialing a local number for dialup ISPs, meaning that there is no phone toll charge, no matter how long or when you go online.

        People get broadband because they have a family and they are tired of kids fighting over the computer and slow as hell networked dialup.

      • It's not about caring about speed, it's about worrying about being hit by per minute fees while online. Those that switched to broadband from dial-up didn't care before or after about the speed. As the summary and article say, users are taking their time interacting with the web as they don't have to rush to get on, do what they want to do, and then get off. Yes, if it's pr0n they want, they may be rushing to get off indeed.
      • It's not aboot caring aboot speed

        You're Canadian, aren't you?
    • ...When you already HAVE broadband you don't care too much about the speed....

      Unfortunately, I have broadband and I do care about the speed I get. Only because I'm downloading at 6.5k/sec. I hate it when ISPs say speeds up to 768k so they're still okay when you're downloading slower than a 56k modem.
      • by sheepab ( 461960 )
        I'm downloading at 6.5k/sec. I hate it when ISPs say speeds up to 768k

        Thats 6.5KBps over a 768kbps line, so in reality, you're downloading at about 65kbps, and the max you could hit will probably be 76.8-80KBps.
        • by LostCluster ( 625375 ) on Thursday November 28, 2002 @12:24AM (#4772753)
          But what are you downloading from?

          A T-1 served being hit by about 20-25 users at the same time would produce that effect. It doesn't matter how fast your connection is, it's the slowest point between you and "them" that regulates the speed.

          When you have a modem, it's likely that you're the slowest link, but the faster you get, the more likely it becomes that the choke point is closer to the site you're trying to download from than your line.
      • Unfortunately, I have broadband and I do care about the speed I get. Only because I'm downloading at 6.5k/sec. I hate it when ISPs say speeds up to 768k so they're still okay when you're downloading slower than a 56k modem.

        Just because you can't download fast doesn't mean you don't have the bandwidth. My bandwidth is capped at 2.5 megabits per second, yet I rarely see this. For example, I find a good measure of download speed is grabbing an ISO for FreeBSD or the Linux distro of the month from some overloaded FTP server. Of course, if a server's bandwidth is maxed out and can only give 6.5 KB/sec, it doesn't matter what your bandwidth is.

        When they say you have a certain bandwidth, that is the maximum. A lot of factors (load on the local router, ISP's upstream line, local trunk's capacity or utilization, etc) impact your actual speed. That's why I ask around and don't go by the numbers.

        The other advantage is you won't get a disconnect when 98% done downloading that 650 MB Linux ISO. And your ping will be faster in Quake, since there is no D/A A/D conversion going on. I'll take a 6.5 KB pure digital download over a 6.5 KB analog modem download any day.

      • More than likely speeds of 6.5k/s are server throttled. Broadband ISPs offer a lot of bandwidth, but you'll never see a server give that much bandwidth (well you can, but rarely). The true test of an Internet Connection is try a direct computer to computer connection..say like an IRC DCC send. I've seen speeds on that get to absurd levels.

        What broadband gives you is not a fast connection, per se, but a BROAD connection. You can make multiple smaller connections without one trampling upon the other.
    • by saskboy ( 600063 ) on Wednesday November 27, 2002 @09:41PM (#4772084) Homepage Journal
      I think it is a double edged sword. Faster access creates more dependance, but as you say it also solves the waiting game in some situations. Less time waiting = more time for something else.
      But how many people you know use that extra time for something wise?
      I know I don't, I just post messages to /. instead of doing my homework now that I can get all my assignments and notes in an instant...
      • by ebyrob ( 165903 ) on Wednesday November 27, 2002 @10:46PM (#4772320)
        But how many people you know use that extra time for something wise?

        The same could be said about faster processors, available computing resources and other modern improvements in computers. In fact, maybe developers would write better code if we went back to batch-processing and punch cards, where people had to think before they wrote a line of code.

        Then again maybe not.

        Just because not everyone has found a use for the commodity yet, or learned how to use it properly yet, doesn't mean it is not useful. I know I was hating life when I lost broadband for 1.5 years (due to ISP bankruptcy) until I got it back again. Even my wife (who is not a very savvy computer user, but does leave her computer on all the time) really missed having readily available internet.

        It's the little things that make a big difference, like being able to search google for recipes while cooking, or being able to check out easily when playing boggle.
    • by shut_up_man ( 450725 ) on Wednesday November 27, 2002 @09:50PM (#4772125) Homepage
      Total agreement here - case in point, I moved from broadband in London to an always-connected dialup in a seaside town in Australia, and nearly went out of my mind. It was the slowest net connection I'd ever experienced ever, even slower than in the early days when we were all using Trumpet Winsock and Mosaic.

      What saved me was that it was so slow, I pretty much gave up using it altogether. That saved my sanity, I suspect. It was a pretty clear picture of how much broadband users take speed for granted, so I think the the Work Foundation are wrong.
    • When we'd wait 20 minutes to download a multipart uuencoded
      Usenet binary to able to view a picture to spank it to.

      Yes, masturbation has come quicker. We have bandwidth to thank for our higher productivity.

      When we think about women every x.5 seconds, we can do something about it.

      Off to The Hun []or to the The Free Voyeurweb []

  • by Gothmolly ( 148874 ) on Wednesday November 27, 2002 @09:24PM (#4771979)
    I like it.

    I have a $5.95/month 56k unlimited dialup plan, and other than WAITING for huge pictures in my email ("here's ANOTHER 1000KB JPG of my dog d00d!"), and the inability to download ISOs, it's fine.

    Yes, I do "scramble" a little more while I'm online, and I've discovered compression for my SSH sessions, but the Net is still quite usable. I get on, I surf for what I want, I get off. I spend less time plugged in, and more time interacting with real people.

    I'm debating going back to broadband when my finances improve, but I'm unsure if I will.
    • Well, I've been forced for various reasons to be using dial-up again and I have to say that I hate it. If I want to big downloads I have to schedule them for when I'm not using my machine.

      Anyway, just wanted to say thanks for mentioning SSH compression, something that I knew nothing about. By far the worst thing about being on dial-up now is latency in my SSH sessions, which I'm in 24/7. Maybe it will improve ...
    • I've known dialup users who downloaded way more ISOs than I ever have on cable modem (about 12 or so, mostly linux or freebsd distros I really wanted on CDs)
      One person I knew averaged nearly a gig a day off dialup (24/7 leaching, primarily from usenet feeds, which are A. local, and B. 2:1-4:1 compressable when connecting over a compressed dial-up connection C. can be scheduled as a continous batch run with software like Agent)

      It's not that dial-up users can't download ISOs, but rather that most people don't have the time/patience to do it. for that matter, most cable/DSL connections don't come with enough bandwith for many people's patience.
      Last time FreeBSD had new ISOs it took me 15 minutes to find an unofficial mirror, and 2-3 hours to DL the iso, and I'm paying $50 a month for cable modem 800kbit/200kbit (100 KB/s / 25 KB/s) which is the highest consumer bandwith level offered by my ISP.
    • by Waffle Iron ( 339739 ) on Wednesday November 27, 2002 @10:10PM (#4772212)
      "here's ANOTHER 1000KB JPG of my dog d00d!"

      Cheap 2 megapixel cameras + limited storage free mailboxes = bad news. Now you have to train your friends to scale down their pictures before mailing them. The problem is, a lot of people are at most dimly aware of the idea that data actually has a "size".

  • Take it away (Score:5, Insightful)

    by emgeemg ( 182902 ) on Wednesday November 27, 2002 @09:26PM (#4771986) Homepage
    People did not really care about the speed at which they could download from the Net.

    Take their broadband away and put them back on a 56k dialup connection again for a few days. I'll bet they'll care. It's not that people don't take about download speeds, its just that broadband users take it for granted after awhile.
    • no shiat. I've had cable for 3 years. I logged on at my sisters house the other day with a modem... I couldn't use it. It was painful.
    • Re:Take it away (Score:2, Insightful)

      by eric_ste ( 446052 )
      No shit. I have a a 3Mb/s at home and went to my sister's house to help her with her computer. She has a 56k modem that syncs at 40k. On top of that she was running with 32Megs of RAM. I had to download some drivers and software for her digital camera. It took forever. In fact it took so loooooong that she had to invite me my wife and my kids for dinner. ;)

      My father on the other hand has Highspeed at home. He has a 1Mb/s. He says, like the people in this study, that he doesnt care much for speed but that he likes to be always on, never have to connect to anything but I doubt that he would survive a downgrade to a 56k.

      I guess that many people don't crave for speed because they actually don't realise how much bandwidth they are using andf how usefull it is. Just like a Londonian would not ask for rain but it might be different in Saskatchewan Canada, where agriculture depends on it.

      We must also note that the average slashdot user probably downloads more than the average user. Can you imagine Gentoo on a 56k. THAT would be painfull. ON top of recompiling XFREE, Mozilla, OpenOffice, KDE, Gnome, one would have to wait for the downloads that would be as long as the compiling time, if it succeeds at all!
    • by gvonk ( 107719 ) <slashdot AT garrettvonk DOT com> on Thursday November 28, 2002 @03:34AM (#4773422) Homepage
      Take their broadband away and put them back on a 56k dialup connection again for a few days.

      Dude, it's Thanksgiving. That just happened for all of us geeks stuck at our parents' house.

      (posting from AOL. God this sucks.)
  • by ThogScully ( 589935 ) <> on Wednesday November 27, 2002 @09:26PM (#4771988) Homepage
    no longer afraid of spending too much time online anymore.

    Personally, I don't think I really consider this to be measurable anymore. If I'm at a computer, 9 times out of 10, I'm online even if I'm just recompiling a kernel or typing up a paper. Maybe I'm not actively browsing or chatting or anything, but I consider myself online.

    • Same here. I have cable and leave my computer on 24/7, so I find it hard to think of computing *without* an internet connection. Seems impossible to be sitting at a computer but unable to read /., check on my downloads (the reason I got cable in the first place), download the latest version of a program I'm running, or search for something I need to know.
  • by Chester K ( 145560 ) on Wednesday November 27, 2002 @09:26PM (#4771989) Homepage
    ...all the promised music and video-on-demand that was supposed to be the killer app for broadband access never materialized thanks to plenty of legal manuevering by the RIAA and MPAA.

    But people like the lower latency and the fact their web pages pop up quicker, so it doesn't matter that there's no real need for the average person to have a giant pipe.
    • excellent point (Score:3, Interesting)

      by geek ( 5680 )
      I remember 5 years ago all the hype and promise of video on demand, video conferencing and the ilk.

      It never happened, not just because of the RIAA but because ISP's were choked by the baby bells and couldn't sell broadband cheaply and competitively. Then there was the browser war that created about 10 different sets of standards ensuring no company could create a multimedia app without pissing everyone off for not supporting their OS/Format.

      These issues still exist but hopefully MPEG4 will cure some of it. I don't know what to do on the ISP side, they are just totally screwed as long as they have to deal with the baby bells. Worldcom couldn't make it, why should any smaller ISP?

      I personally don't care if it's always on. I just want it on when I want it, if that means flipping an on switch then so be it. I want it as fast as possible at the lowest price possible. I also do not want restrictions on it (i.e. no servers). As long as ISP's play that game I don't see broadband working out.

      I have yet to see video conferencing work out even. I know one company that uses it and they had to get a secured dedicated T1 specifically for it. Video conferencing has so much potential it's crazy, but no one is taking advantage of it. Just watch the extras DVD in the Episode II DVD and see what Lucas's sound team did with the dedicated ISDN lines to Australia. They were doing the voice overs for the Camino characters in realtime across the world.

      Anyway, some how or another all this stuff will need to shake out. The corporate arrogance will need to end it's attempts to tell customers what they want and actually listen to what they want and sell a product that meets the demand. I just don't see it happeneing any time soon.
  • No shit? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by RatBastard ( 949 ) on Wednesday November 27, 2002 @09:27PM (#4771995) Homepage
    Considering that telephone calls in the UK are toll calls, this is a no brainer. Back when Compuserve was The Thing and you paid by the hour you got in, did your business and got the hell out fast. With always on access who cares if it takes three minutes or thirty? You don't HAVE to run like hell anymore as the monitary cost is no longer a fctor in how long you stay on line.
    • LOL yes! I remember using a program called Tapsis(?) for Compuserver that would dial up, grab all the messages you wanted, then disconnect. You'd read and reply on your own time, then make one more brief connection to transmit any replies. It saved a TON of money. I can't imagine being forced to use the same thing for the Web in general! :)
  • not suprised (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 27, 2002 @09:29PM (#4772009)
    Ive always maintained that users dont need the bandwidth of Broadband, like they dont need the latest greatest processor etc. Only benefit to 512K + is downloading large files, which isn't something i, along with the majority of users, spend a lot of time doing.

    I'd be happy with 128K, always on, but with the ability to have 'bursts' of say 2MB when i do want to download somthing large.
    • Re:not suprised (Score:3, Insightful)

      by LostCluster ( 625375 )
      You're exactly the user the tiered cable modem is aimed at. And, you're the majority of the world, and only in the minority on Slashdot.
    • And if you did want to download something large, a mild processor would then become your issue. Not just for the download, but to handle all the other things going on at the same time. Unpacking the last file...running that network backup...rotating that image in PhotoShop...burning your latest DVD.

      I just moved from ADSL to VDSL [], and now my processor is the bottleneck. It's like some many other things, were the cycle moves the slowdown from one component in need of an upgrade to another. Fix one, and the next in line is now a liability, where it wasn't before. Get a legitimately big jump in your internet connectivity and see what happens to your system needs.
  • by prisen ( 578061 ) on Wednesday November 27, 2002 @09:29PM (#4772012)
    I dunno about most of the world populous, but I had dialup (all the way back to the GEnie/CompuServe/Prodigy era), then cable for about 6 months as soon as it was available, then I moved to an area with no broadband available. Trust me, it was horrible. No one could call me because I took 3 hours downloading OS updates, I couldn't do much of what I used to like to do - idle on IRC, listen to streamed audio (legal matters aside), download new Linux distros, et cetera. After 2 years of this madness cable finally became available and life has been good again. It's just not good enough for a geek to have dial-up anymore - even with a dedicated phone line.
    • From the comment above:
      • Not tying up the phone
      • Not paying for an extra line (alternately)
      • Streaming media over 56k
      There's also:
      • Being able to have more than one person/PC online
      • Tech support (remote login is nice, I've done it for a few friends online)

      And the bad:
      • Remember the average user needing a firewall on dial-up?
      • Goatse is a lot easier to click-out before they loaded on dial-up

      A lot of things that we don't think about, they'd just be as inconvenient as hell. Geeks/gamers are not the only ones who enjoy broadband!
    • by Jucius Maximus ( 229128 ) <m4encxb2sw@snk[ ] ['mai' in gap]> on Wednesday November 27, 2002 @11:02PM (#4772377) Journal
      " I dunno about most of the world populous, but I had dialup (all the way back to the GEnie/CompuServe/Prodigy era), then cable for about 6 months as soon as it was available, then I moved to an area with no broadband available. Trust me, it was horrible. No one could call me because I took 3 hours downloading OS updates, I couldn't do much of what I used to like to do - idle on IRC, listen to streamed audio (legal matters aside), download new Linux distros, et cetera. After 2 years of this madness cable finally became available and life has been good again. It's just not good enough for a geek to have dial-up anymore - even with a dedicated phone line."

      Thank you for summing that up so succinctly.

      And it's worse when a family is involved. I am typing this on a home network where a 28.8k dialup is shared over 5 machines. My brother and sister are Kazaa (lite) leechers and all is terrible like you described.

      The worst part is that decent broadband (satellite is not decent) or even 56K will never be available out here in the forseable future in rural Ontario, Canada because the population density is very low. And only 10 minutes away my friends living in the city are all on @Home enjoying fast cable.


  • by Arcaeris ( 311424 ) on Wednesday November 27, 2002 @09:31PM (#4772016)
    This story says that people get and use broadband service because they don't use a phone line or get charged per-minute charges.

    I'm sure that's fine and dandy in the UK, but here I don't think anyone pays per-minute charges for dial-up and the cost of a second phone line + AOL or MSN about equals the cost of broadband. Hell, broadband is even a little cheaper than that combination where I live.

    They say that the big selling point of broadband is that it's always on, but say absolutely nothing to elaborate. Gee, thanks.

    They say that most people aren't downloading, so increased download speeds aren't important. Sure, few people download as a majority of their online time, but it's certainly an important factor when people do download.

    They end with "broadband doesn't do what it says on the tin." How the hell they got to that conclusion isn't even evident.

    I guess the criteria for getting a story on Slashdot is just that it has a fancy headline and is about tech? Even if some idiot n00b wrote it? Even if it's totally wrong? Hell, it doesn't even mention Linux or Open Source. Eesh.

    • It says, "Sleep now, forget the hype everything is OK you don't need more." It's the same thing we have been hearing since "You don't need more than 640k RAM," in a different form. If you view it from that perspective, how they get to the conclusion that "Broadband doesn't do what it says on the tin" is evident: they don't mention what broadband could do, though they are good at wasing it with 53 page PDF files instead of simple HTML alternates. Unmentioned are Voice over IP, which means unmetered long distance communications, video services to match, free music on demand without wait, the implications for news publishing, use and sharing of computational resources, remote monitoring and control. Most of these demonstrated and proven but undeployed services threaten the existance of large corporate and governmental interests. Either this group is very shallow or it's a shill.

      Let's examine the shill angle. Their mission statement [] says in part, "we aim to make our workplaces more effective, more successful and more fulfilling." Sound familiar, like "Everything you do will be easier and more fun."? Hmmmm, who sponsors these effeciency experts who can make my job more fulfilling? Their Executive Summary [] (which they claim requires Adobe, but works just fine with xpdf), does not say. It has more highly abstracted stuff that ends up calling for "smarter" regulation. They congratulate themselves in their Anual Report [] for "-have ensured that the Society 's name has appeared in print or been heard on television or radio almost every day..." and BINGO, "...The launch of our three-to-five-year iSociety project, with the support of Microsoft Limited..." I knew it! Strange Darwinian language about competition and the need for efficiency, while claiming to represent and care for the squezed, it just smelled like M$.

      Still, it's hard to tell. The member list, contained in their 50 page anual report (50% white space, 10% photos, 25% adjective, 5% adverb, 5% hyperbole, 5% news), did not look suspicious. Members of the House of Lords, Bank of Scotland, and various Civil Servants might be forgiven for being taken in by the beast from Redmond. They seem to have some reasonable ideas about employee dignity etc, but all abstractions sound as good. Surely, the "members only web pages," are a strange way to share information. Freedom is required for dignity, folks. This paper and the iSociety makes you look like indusry shills. If I can't read your papers online, I won't be reading them and you look shallow.

      Wink, Mr. Wates your secretary must be using M$ word to write "My thanks and appreciation go to every member of staff and my colleagues on the Boar and on the management team ..." []. Yes, that like the pig or Dutch in South Africa. A wild ride, I'm sure. Auto correct or Imperial Dream? I don't spell check for Slashdot and no one is paying me for this.

  • by lpret ( 570480 ) <> on Wednesday November 27, 2002 @09:31PM (#4772021) Homepage Journal
    I think this study shows that the hype that was given early on isn't quite living up to it's worth. Many people do not integrate computers with their life yet. It IS possible, but they do not. Once you integrate your computer w/ life, you have a completely different story to tell. For example, I cannot live without my cable modem. I have a Wireless LAN at home and with my Toshiba e740, I walk around always connected. Now, I'm a nerd by general standards, but I'm also much more informed. Wonder what's on for TV? I just whip it out, surf to and find out. Having a discussion at the table about how many pounds in a metric tonne? Pull it out and check online. Wonder what the wheather is like? Etc...

    I personally feel that if I had to go to my desktop (muchless turn it on, muchles dial up!) I wouldn't do half the stuff I want to do. I think it really comes down to the interfaces we currently have (big boxes in a side room). It's the physical integration that will increase broadband usage. Once that happens, broadband becomes a necessity.

    • Wonder what's on for TV? I just whip it out, surf to and find out. Having a discussion at the table about how many pounds in a metric tonne? Pull it out and check online. Wonder what the wheather is like?

      It's just nonstop action and adventure and Questions That Matter in your place, isn't it?

      ... But I do know what you mean. I was able to cancel the digital TV Guide thingy (slow, remote was a pain) once I found Gist [].
  • by The Ancients ( 626689 ) on Wednesday November 27, 2002 @09:33PM (#4772030) Homepage
    "The PC is more scary monster than household pet. It is rarely loved, sometimes feared," said Mr Crabtree.

    I see they're running Windows.

  • by Carnage4Life ( 106069 ) on Wednesday November 27, 2002 @09:34PM (#4772034) Homepage Journal
    Hmmmm, so the researchers thought that the fact that broadband had faster download speeds would mean that people would spend less time online? I'm not surprised that the reverse is true and people spend more time online when using broadband than when they had dialup.

    With broadband using the 'net isn't as frustrating with all the waiting around so I don't stop out of irritation. I don't have to get off the 'net to keep the phone line free. I also don't have to deal with the annoying modem screech and inevitable busy signals before connecting to the 'net.

    Why wouldn't I spend more time online?
    • Unlimited-time dial-up doesn't exist in the UK, so this is their user's first experience with the Internet where they didn't feel rushed to interact. Users certainly will behave differently when they are on a pay-per-minute Internet connection than when they are not.
    • Most people in the Dorms here go with the campus LAN for $50/month. Its somewhat faster than dialup (and decent now while everyone is home for thanksgiving). Those who purchase a cable modem are known to disappear for about a week to ten days. They resurface and life goes on...but the thing is that once a "click" instantly displays the new web page the transitions are so smooth that hours and hours go by. Its possible to actually open every single link at the bottom of a web page without feeling the need to make coffee or something while you wait. If we consumed a konstant quantity of online info, then yeah a faster connection would imply less time online. But the fact is that people get bored waiting, and can only swallow so many interuptions before they turn on the tv or get a book. Cable is fast enough that that "turn off" doesn't have to happen.
  • What Report? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by warb ( 155872 )
    i-Society project by the Work Foundation

    Who is this organization?

    In my opinion broadband is imortant. Otherwise I'd be trading this cable modem in for my old
    56k dial up.

    Take a survey here?

    Given the choice to switch back to dial up, would you? Of Cousre not! But most people don't like paying $20 dollors for dial up and sure aren't intrested in spending $40 or so for braodband.
  • by Castaa ( 458419 )
    Force the people who took the survey to start using a 56K baud modem again for a week.

    Then do the survey again. I think people quickly forget how frustrating a slow and unreliable internet connection really is.
  • by Samir Gupta ( 623651 ) on Wednesday November 27, 2002 @09:35PM (#4772040) Homepage
    In Europe, as well as Japan, phone calls, even for local numbers, are charged by the minute, in constrast to the practice in the US where you get unlimited local calling. Therefore, traditionally, without broadband, dialup Internet users here have been very concientious about the time they spend online. Many studies have shown that this has caused the growth of ecommerce and (more of interest to me) online gaming to be slower in those parts of the world. With broadband, and unlimited usage, it was a quantum leap for many Internet users here in Japan and I'm sure such was the case in England as well, to be able to have UNLIMITED usage. I would say that, compared to the US where broadband was just an evolution in speed, it was, from a marketing standpoint much more of a compelling sell in these countries, because of the UNLIMITED aspect of it, causing people to use/overuse it even more than in the US.
  • "People are not doing things that require speed, so that is something of a red herring as a selling point,"

    Yeah. It never bothered me when it took somwhere around 45 seconds to 2 minutes to load a webpage I needed to go to. Granted I'm what those people would call a "Power User", even my father who doesn't work in the industry (he's a Truck Fleet Manager), loved Broadband over Dialup. When he finally got a cable modem he was very pleased with webpage loading times, especially because where he lives the copper lines in the area are poorly done and seriously old. The maximum modem connect he could manage was 21600.

    In other news Mustang owners say they don't really notice much of a difference with their 320hp vs. the 120hp Escort that costs much less.
    • In other news Mustang owners say they don't really notice much of a difference with their 320hp vs. the 120hp Escort that costs much less.

      More like "On average, people with Mustangs don't seem to drive much faster than people with Escorts, so speed must not be important."
      But yeah, the study's conclusions are idiotic.
  • Location (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Xanic ( 105676 )
    It should be noted that these findings were in london/leeds, where up until broadband was available, they were still paying by the minute dialup internet charges. While I still think that they enjoy the other selling points of broadband, I can see how the flat monthly fee is the most attractive feature to them.
  • Content (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Frost_Azimov ( 532277 ) on Wednesday November 27, 2002 @09:36PM (#4772052)
    I think the article is right on the money, for now. I also think the people visiting slashdot may not be the same demographic group compared to the one mentioned in the article. I guess we can be considered 'early adapters'. Where Joe Average still feels his main reason for having DSL is not having to worry about the minutes he has to pay for (and I remember that sentiment, it's been a few years though), we have already gone beyond that point and discovered that broadband gives us more possibilities. The fact that we may be a bit more computer literate won't hurt. 'Us geeks' have the toys and the knowlegde to fill the broadband, but just wait a year, or possibly even less and the learning curves will be even less steep, the software will be more user friendly and the 5Mbit digital camera will be cheaper than today. I say that broadbands selling point makes sense. It made sense for the early adapter who helped develop the market, and in the near future it will make sense to the average user who could care less right now.
  • "Hi, I'm here to sell you broadband." "Great! I can go as fast as I want, right?" "No, we cap you, and we'll have you arrested if you go too fast." "Oh. But I can download movies and audio, right? I mean, I already own them on tape, so it's okay, right?" "No, we'll give your name out to the FBI, and anyway, we prohibit you from uploading on P2P networks." "Oh, but it's priced right, right?" "No, we are going to charge you at least $40 a month and we're going to rent you this nifty used modem and we're going to install some spyware on your computer." "It works with Linux?" "Pbbbbt!"
  • Boosting the transmission speed by a couple of times, doesn't increase the speed of the server at the other end.

    Given how many sites are database driven these days, the processing time of the host may be a significant factor in the time it takes for a page to load.

  • "The PC is more scary monster than household pet. It is rarely loved, sometimes feared," said Mr Crabtree. Next to it is a picture of cute puppies and kittens.

    Perhaps our UK counterparts have learned a thing or two (bad) from the American news reporting system. People like puppies..Must include puppies in story. What in the world is happening that could possibly be more important than puppies? Actual world events? End rant.

    Much like the picture of the puppies, this story is fluff. Of course people use a service where they are not billed by the minute more than a service where they are. Thanks to quicker downloads and page loads (and of course, not watching the clock for billing) - they probably have longer periods of inactivity as well.

  • Only relevant in UK (Score:2, Informative)

    by ShieldW0lf ( 601553 )
    This whole study is based on the context of users who pay by the minute for phone calls, and who pay for local calls. If you live in a place where you don't pay by the minute for local calls (like most of the world) the study is completely irrelevant.

    In other words, who cares?
  • DSL (Score:2, Insightful)

    People can do so much more with broadband (watch streaming video, download massive amounts of data, browse the web without waiting for pages to load) that their lives are "becoming one" with their web experiences. They rely more and more on the Web to accomplish everyday tasks. While the average geek would find this attractive, this has strong negative conotations for society as a whole.
  • This will sound like a stupid question if you know what it means. But what does that mean? On the tin? :-). Thanks!

    Sex on the tin? []
  • Damn those BBC Journalists are nuts. "Here, a picture of cats and a dog. I wonder how it will fit to this technology news. I know, 'Computers just are not cute as pets'!! Mrs. Tingle will sure give me an A!"
  • that it doesn't do what it says on the tin - it does more.

    Let's take a common situation - a person looking for information on the internet for a presentation/paper/assignment/whatever. Have you ever considered how much time is saved just by the speed you get your search results? Also, how about loading page two of the search results while downloading a PDF or email or a picture? Or even when you visit some crappy company's website and it's all in some really impractical format like flash or has tons of useless java applets?

    I think the conclusions arrived at are wrong. People say they don't care about the speed - sure! the digits in kbps/Mbps might not mean much. But don't try and tell me they don't care about things that are not a direct consequence of the speed.

    Basically, people don't realise it, but they really do care about speed. I mean..sure, your usual guy might not care about the difference between say 768kbps and 1.5Mbps, but tell him instead that he won't be able to watch a video online while downloading the latest copy of windows bloatware and he will sit up and take notice and WILL ask you for a FASTER line.
  • The British Govt. needs to mandate services that will drive and attract interaction.

    Like voting...and discounted shopping...and reservations...and driver's lisences...and birth record updates...and sex offender record gaming...etc.

    When day-to-day commerce makes a serious move to the net, so will the public.

    As it is, the net is more like a toy to the average Brit, and thus no need to drive where to go?
  • ...I care about download speed. Even if it comes with per minute charges like dial-up, I will still consider purchasing a broadband plan.

    I recently (about a month or so) purchased a broadband plan [] from my ISP [], because it is finally available in my area. The first thing I noticed is how quickly my hard disk space runs out... is it the ISOs? Or MP3s? DivXs? M2Vs? Apps? Heck, it's all of them. In fact I think I have done more downloads the past month than my whole lifetime prior to switching to broadband.

    What do I think about the BBC's reasoning that's it's actually more because of the no-per-minute-charges benefits? It's very likely to be true... and I exibit this new-found powers of mine by staying on IRC 24-7 and looking k-l33t :P

  • Uh, well, duh!?!? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by mcrbids ( 148650 ) on Wednesday November 27, 2002 @10:02PM (#4772180) Journal
    When DSL service first became available in my area 3 years ago, I signed up immediately. I owned a small computer store at the time, and I figured that the time saved downloading drivers (as we had to do frequently) would more than pay for the DSL service.

    I was right - it radically changed our outlook on drivers, which were, up to that point, carefully hoarded on floppies or CDs.

    But what surprised me was that suddenly, streaming video and audio where completely options! Imagine, tens of millions of computers' content available for cheap to free, and available instantly! is what then made me get DSL service at home. Music from anywhere and everywhere - like having the world's largest collection of indep. band CDs...

    Oh, and remember Napster?

    It was just a few months later that I signed up at home, and I will not ever turn back. (I sold said computer store. Now I telecommute as my line of work - I love it!)

    I guess it's sorta like the Tivo - it's hardly exciting until you've lived with it for a while. Then, it becomes something you'll not want to live without!
  • Stoopid article (Score:5, Insightful)

    by binaryDigit ( 557647 ) on Wednesday November 27, 2002 @10:07PM (#4772197)
    That was one of the dumbest things I've ever read. This is the junk they pass for "research" these days?

    Others have mentioned the "...actually slowing down interaction with the net ..." and the fact that they never bother to mention how they came to that conclusion.

    "People are not doing things that require speed, so that is something of a red herring as a selling point," - What, no one must be surfing then. I know not everyone is downloading warez, but lord knows that BB has been a boom to the pr0n industry.

    simply because most users do not leave their computers on. - OK, actually a good point, I'll give them this one.

    But until technophobia is overcome, broadband is unlikely to be viewed in this way, said Mr Crabtree. - they never mention how broadband and technophobia are related, at least in terms of broadband vs dialup. Hell, hooking up my dsl/cable modem was simpler than getting my dialup working right.

    "Broadband doesn't do what it says on the tin," - What, it doesn't provide faster downloads and instant on service? That's what their advertising isn't it, and isn't that what they (generally) deliver?

    I can't believe that news about Alan Kay doesn't make it (or did it and I missed it?) but yet crap like this shows up?!?
  • In a tin (Score:3, Funny)

    by kitzilla ( 266382 ) <> on Wednesday November 27, 2002 @10:10PM (#4772210) Homepage Journal
    "Broadband doesn't do what it says on the tin"

    --James Crabtree, i-Society

    Well, there's your problem, James. You've attached your computer to a soup can. You want to be hooked up to some sort of a modem. RTFM.

    • Re:In a tin (Score:3, Informative)

      by DrVxD ( 184537 )
      Just to give his comment some context, there's been a series of TV ads recently in the UK (where the survey was done), for which the tagline was "it does exactly what it says on the tin". I presume that's what Mr Crabtree's comment refers to.
    • > "Broadband doesn't do what it says on the tin"

      Except when I'm reading newsgroups with tin [].

  • by papasui ( 567265 ) on Wednesday November 27, 2002 @10:11PM (#4772214) Homepage
    Since I supervise the broadband services department of a major cable company in the USA I'll share my opinnion on the matter. Sure unlimited time, and (usually unmetered) broadband may make people a bit slower when browsing the web. However, the difference is that the websites can offer more content, and a richer experience than what would be a considered a resonable download time with a 56k modem. I also double as an ASP/SQL contractor and I have at times forgotten about the bandwidth limitations of our customers (internal and external) who may not be using a broadband pipe. I would think that as more people get broadband html in general will die, we will see more and more FLASH oriented sites (or whatever the latest and greatest technology is at the time.) Not HTML + Flash, but pure Flash and images will move from being jpgs and gifs to PNGs. Yea you can do all this now, but you would be leaving at least 50% in the cold.
    • by evilviper ( 135110 ) on Wednesday November 27, 2002 @10:27PM (#4772259) Journal
      I would think that as more people get broadband html in general will die, we will see more and more FLASH oriented sites

      And I think, when that happens, we will see less and less people use those sites.

      HTML is great because it gives the users a good deal of control over the presentation of the content. When a large number switch to Flash, PDF, etc, then the web will be presented EXACTLY how webmasters want it, and to hell with your preferences.

      With HTML, you can force it to wrap to your viewpoint. Converting the web to flash will certainly kill small-screen devices' web browsing.
      • I would think that as more people get broadband html in general will die, we will see more and more FLASH oriented sites

        Riight.. because my company hates the fact that Google indexes our site so that people will find us. If only we had a way to wrap up all that content into a proprietary format to keep those customers away.

        And those damn cellphone users.. they shouldn't be able to view our site, they should go find a Windows machine just like the rest of the world.
    • I don't think a pure Flash layout would really be that much bigger than a pure HTML/image layout. It's just that people insist on putting sound, animation, and complex interaction in the flash version. Some of it is excusable since you need to roll your own UI code in Flash, and it can't handle very large amounts of text, but all-flash sites are quite feasible.
  • as more of a tool for entertainment, selective general news reading and for the apropriation of oss software news and resources. Which means that the speed is what matters most. Going back to dialup would be pure torture. The always on feature does not matter that much although the fact that it is there when I turn on my system and is INSTANTLY accessable is very apealing.
    It's funny that reading /. falls under all 3 of my usage catagories.


    If sense where common everyone would have it.
  • But the main appeal of so-called "broadband" is that it's always online, and you don't have to fuck with it to use the net from moment to moment. People LIKE that; that's the #1 feature. It's reliable.

    Speed is secondary. People DO like the speed... even if they say they don't... otehrwise they couldn't download all the movies and porn and music.

  • by Daetrin ( 576516 ) on Wednesday November 27, 2002 @10:25PM (#4772252)
    "The PC is more scary monster than household pet. It is rarely loved, sometimes feared," said Mr Crabtree.

    *pats his computer on the top of it's case* Don't listen to them Aerie, they're just stupid mean humans. :)

  • Dammit, get it through your thick heads!

    Broadband = multiple analog signals on 1 wire. That's it nothing more, nothing less. Broadband means that they are several communications going on at the same time all using a different frequency range.

    Broadband is not a description of speed, it is the form of how the signals are sent.

    Dialup modems (like 28.8kbps) are a broadband connection.
    14.4kbps fax is a broadband connection.
    Cable modems (all speeds) are broadband connections.

    Are LANs broadband? No. Are they fast? Yes. They are baseband (digital) connections (like ethernet).
    • Actually, according to the FCC here in the USA, "Broadband" has a very specific meaning. That is, the download speed must be at least 208kbps. This is a legal definition. You can't sell a ISDN line and call it Broadband.

      In general, that's a good definition from a networking standpoint, so I tend to stick with it in any case.

      Oh, and the origin of the term "broadband" had NOTHING to do with the ability to send multiple signals on a single wire. It has to do with the SPECTRUM used to send those signals. Standard voice-only telephony uses a relatively small frequency range (about 4kHz). Broadband was originally used to describe an analog signal that used several multiples of this spectrum to send the data. Thus, it was much "broader" than the voice spectrum.


  • local isp (Score:3, Informative)

    by RestiffBard ( 110729 ) on Wednesday November 27, 2002 @10:30PM (#4772271) Homepage
    I never feel rushed using my 56k dial-up. It's always on mostly, persist enabled. When it goes down its down for 60 secs and then its back up. I've downloaded several ISOs using dialup over the years. no big deal. I can see where time is an issue for those folks that live in countries with whack rate plans just for local calls but in the states its no biggee to be online all day even when I'm not there.
  • easy one: (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sootman ( 158191 ) on Wednesday November 27, 2002 @10:39PM (#4772298) Homepage Journal
    with broadband, I stay online longer because the experience is less painful. have you seen how huge the average page is at a site like tomshardware? or cnn? or anywhere else? toms front page is 120k, with 250 links and 250 images. (most of which are the same clear gif, but still.)
  • While the majority of internet users may not care, this article clear left out the people who become all-conumed by broadband (such as myself). Once exposed to a high-speed internet connection, being connected to the internet consumes their life. Rather than the normal Wake-Work-Eat schedule, life becomes more of a Download-Work-Download-Eat-Download cycle. The more you have, the more you want. The more you want, the more you get. The more you get, the more you want, a vivcious cycle that only ends when you can't afford an internet connection, and resort to writing XHTML-CSS on the walls of your cardboard box home.
  • by Mahrin Skel ( 543633 ) on Wednesday November 27, 2002 @11:22PM (#4772444)
    In most of Europe, broadband is the only flat-rated residential Internet access you can get, the other alternatives involve by the minute charges for both the access and the phone line. People have no idea what to do with high bandwidth connections or always-on connections, but they can get the idea that they can surf as much as they like without having to log out between large pages (no, I'm not exaggerating). Almost all of our European customers (for an MMOG) are broadband users.


  • by sawilson ( 317999 ) on Wednesday November 27, 2002 @11:25PM (#4772454) Homepage
    Broadband is to wife, as dialup is to girlfriend.
    Think about it.

  • /cry (Score:2, Funny)

    by KillerBob ( 217953 )
    If it wasn't for ADSL internet access, I'd have done something productive in the last three years, instead of playing Everquest and surfing /. about 18 hours a day....

    Hmm. I fail to see the downside.
  • by olddoc ( 152678 ) on Wednesday November 27, 2002 @11:34PM (#4772489)
    What a load of hogwash! Everything on the internet requires broadband. Try loading the BBC's home page with dialup. Try looking at the weather channel and seeing a weather map. How about doing some research with google and clicking on 5 different links before you find the information you were after.

    I teach my kids that if the result they want doesn't flash up on the screen instantly than the computer or the network or something is too slow!
  • by lgordon ( 103004 ) <larry,gordon&gmail,com> on Thursday November 28, 2002 @12:01AM (#4772652) Journal
    In the UK, users of dialup services are charged on a per minute basis, even for local calls (such as those to an ISP). Clearly, it's flat rate pricing that was the big selling point. Consequently, the study's conclusions are of little relevance to the US market.
  • people come for the speed and the always on or at least leave dial up for the lack of speed and the repeated cue from the modem about another call tariff.

    When they get to broadband those things arent a problem but look at the reason given by them as to what they like and its a product of speed and connectivity.

    An academic researcher asks someone why they chose something(A) and what they like about the thing(B)and if A/=B suggest that it would be better to push B as the reason to swap. The point is that B is often a totally unknown thing to people choosing. They have no concept of B before they get there.

    To a person on a crappy dialup connection who pays by the minute while they download complicated web pages that take for bloody ever to get there or flash animations that do nothing except say press here to enter the idea of not being concerned about wasting time online is an alien concept.

    Its like heaven. Everybody wants to go there but noone wants to die. but equally no-one comes back because they don't like it.

  • by michael_cain ( 66650 ) on Thursday November 28, 2002 @12:54AM (#4772874) Journal
    at a broadband provider, based on detailed (monitor software in the PC, extensive interviews with the families, in-home time-lapse video recordings) ethnographic studies of the subscribers:
    • Broadband subscribers use the Internet for significantly more minutes per day than they did when they were dial-up users, and
    • High-speed is why they sign up, but always-on is the reason that they rearrange their furniture in order to get the computer out of the back room and into regular "family" space.
    Once they get to the point where the PC is in the kitchen or family room, and it's always on, and the Internet connection is just there, the Internet becomes the prefered source of information for almost everything: news, weather, movie listings, encyclopedia articles, etc.

The IQ of the group is the lowest IQ of a member of the group divided by the number of people in the group.