Broadband Internet provides connection speeds two to 25 times faster than standard dial-up modems, is always turned on and doesn't tie up a home phone line. So why aren't more people using it?
That's what companies trying to sell Web services are wondering. A slow adoption rate for broadband Internet access is cited as one of the reasons for the demise of Yahoo Finance Vision, its Web-delivered financial news program service.
Other Internet-focused companies, usually dealing in streaming audio and video, have closed down completely, having expected many more netizens to have upgraded their connection speed before now.
Put simply, broadband for most users means that pages download within seconds, e-mail attachments don't hold up other messages, animations and video aren't herky-jerky, and programs and system upgrades can be downloaded within reasonable time.
At midyear 2002, 14.4 percent of U.S. households had broadband at home, leading to a projection of 17.8 percent use by the end of the year. It ended up at little more than 15 percent, though.
The number of subscribers is still expected to rise, but only to 22 million by the end of this year. The newest prediction is that one-third of U.S. households will have broadband by the end of 2006.
That number may seem high, but not compared to original expectations. Most industry analysts admit broadband acceptance has been slower than they expected, especially in an industry known for its breakneck pace.
Those expectations were raised partly because of the rapid adoption of broadband in other countries. More than 50 percent of households in Hong Kong and South Korea have broadband access.
Originally, technical accessibility was blamed for low use. One form of broadband, known as DSL (Digital Subscriber Line), requires being within a few miles of the nearest telephone company office. That makes it best suited to urban areas.
With DSL unavailable for most, cable modem service was the other major option. Because of that, it's the dominant broadband solution. A small minority use alternatives such as satellite service.
Accessibility is no longer an excuse, since 70 percent of households have one or more options.
The other excuse has been price.
Broadband typically costs $40 to $50 a month. And sometimes a setup fee or a modem rental fee can exacerbate the total cost.
With the economy in the state it's in, it seems most people are content to live with regular, slow dial-up speed. Compared to other monthly bills, broadband seems like an unnecessary luxury.
Of course, no one I know who's gotten it wants to give it up. If broadband providers really want to get more people on board, they should provide 30 to 45 days of free service.
American Online's standard dial-up service costs $22 per month, which isn't too far from $30. If broadband providers had a $30 per month offering for speeds two to four times faster than dial-up and a 30 to 45 day trial period, who would hold back then?