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Broadband Is Dead (Or At Least Very Ill) 371

Posted by timothy
from the cringing-with-cringely dept.
Thornkin writes: "Broadband is dead. That is the proclamation of tech pundit Robert Cringely. With Excite@Home turning away new customers and going bankrupt along with most of the DSL companies, things are bleak and will get worse. The icing on the cake could be this bill which would remand the requirement for local phone providers to open their networks before competing in the long distance market." And at a different scale, apparently the DSL circuits in Blacksburg, VA (a place which liked to claim it was "the most wired town in America" not long ago) are now full, and turning away residential customers.
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Broadband Is Dead (Or At Least Very Ill)

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  • No hype (Score:4, Insightful)

    by evilviper (135110) on Saturday October 13, 2001 @07:54AM (#2423462) Journal
    It isn't dead because it wasn't ever kicking all that much to begin with. The problem is, our investors aren't smoking what they used to be, and aren't wildly investing in something (like broadband) that isn't likely to turn a good profit.

    Broadband will always be available, the market just won't be so damn saturated as it was.
    • by Wansu (846)
      Broadband will always be available, the market just won't be so damn saturated as it was.

      Perhaps there are spotty areas of saturation but in many locations, people aren't being served. DSL has never been available where I live. Fortunately, you can get cable but Time Warner cable is the only game in town. I wouldn't call that saturated.

      • "DSL has never been available where I live. Fortunately, you can get cable but Time Warner cable is the only game in town."

        I didn't think there was anybody in my town with that low a slashdot user number.

    • I think that's a hasty conclusion. As the article states, most broadband companies are loosing money, and they've been doing it only to win market share. There's no reason why a broadband company would continue to offer cheap/fast service if its market wasn't growing and it was loosing money. That's why companies like Excite are going down the tube.

      I'm on my fourth ISP. The first three have all gone out of business and I have their useless DSL boxes to prove it. Now I'm facing the fact that my second DSL provider may go bye-bye. It's a pretty grim future for broadbad in my opinion. Even if the phone company (Verizon) continued to offer DSL, it's such a bad service (friends have had endless QOS problems) I doubt I could bring myself to use it.

      I'm so spoiled by broadband that I don't think I could bear to go back to a modem. On the other hand, not having any sort of net connection at home would mean I might actually have some semblence of a life.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    In other news, Shaw Cable of Calgary, Alberta continues to signup new customers at a rate of over 1,000 per day throughout its service area in Western Canada (and Florida... Don't ask).

    Just because *most* broadband ISPs are staffed by short-term-thinking idiots doesn't mean that all of them are. I don't work for them, but I have a couple of friends who do. Honestly, they really have it together.
  • If cringely could see the forest for the trees...

    Fact is, Exite@home hoisted itself on its own petard, the broadband bill is DOA in legislation, and those companies smart enough to invest in cable, or better yet, fiber are holding their own. DSL is a nasty expensive way to try to make last centuries' technology perform to the needs of this one. Sorry to all of those out there who are stuck with DSL. Honest.
  • The sad thing is... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by iomud (241310) on Saturday October 13, 2001 @08:03AM (#2423476) Homepage Journal
    The truly sad thing is that demand for broadband is and will remain extremely high, these companies seem to have issues either meeting or exceeding costs of service. I know more than a few people who'd kill for a persistant connection it doesnt even really have to be 'broad'band. We all know what a fiasco ordering dsl can be, and cable while usually better as far as service can be hit or miss performance wise. I was on cable for the past four years and moved to a place that doesnt have any broadband options other than satelite (which is plain rediculious for the cost/performance) and have at least once a month checked on the status of it in my area. Long story short it's been almost a year, we have digital cable and verizon moves on it's own time and has no incentive to move quickly to capitalize on 'new-high-growth-potential-consumer-broadband-mark ets' so for now I twiddle my thumbs and consider moving again, only checking on the status of availibility before I move next time.
  • by rant-mode-on (512772) on Saturday October 13, 2001 @08:05AM (#2423479) Homepage

    Perhaps that should read

    • Broadband in the USA is Dead....
    • by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Saturday October 13, 2001 @08:54AM (#2423556)
      Perhaps that should read

      Broadband in the USA is Dead....


      I think it should read "Cringley is an Idiot".

      Broadband is doing just fine where I live (Central NJ). Most of my neighbors have cable modems on Optimum Online with it's great 1 Mb/sec up 5 Mb/sec down service at $29.95/mo. Just about eveyone I work with has some sort of DSL/Cable modem sevice as well.

      The only thing that is slowing down broadband at the moment is the economic slowdown in the US has some Telco's profits in the dumps. As soon as things start picking up again broadband will really take off.

    • How true that is... (Score:3, Informative)

      by TDScott (260197)
      In the areas in the UK where it's available, broadband works well and is cheap, with ADSL and cable offerings (from BT and NTL respectively) are around 0.5Mbps for £25 ($40)/month. That's respectable, even if takeup is a little lower than they hoped.

      The trouble is that the market here has been hoisted on its own petard - when no subscription, toll-free, ad-free [ntlworld.com] dial-up is available (though for how much longer, no-one knows), Joe User can't see the point in broadband.

      • by Cato (8296)
        If you can get ADSL for £25 in the UK, you must have a very special deal... Everyone else is paying £40 per month, $60 approx, and that's after recent price cuts. This is one reason why the UK has far fewer broadband users than the US, Germany and many other countries (in South Korea, the *majority* of Internet users are on broadband).

        Cable broadband does cost about £25 per month, and there's a recently announced a lower-speed £15/$22 per month cable connection service, 128 Kbps but still always on and flat rate - a lot better than ISDN.
        • and cable offerings (from BT and NTL respectively) are around 0.5Mbps for £25 ($40)/month

        Bollocks, mate. ADSL is £40 ($60) + £10 line rental, and BT Openworld has been throttling the bandwidth on common P2P ports for weeks or months (they're not at the time of writing, but this is an actute PR requirement, and they're planning to start throttling again when they bring in a more expensive service aimed at P2P). Also, there are still problems with the BT Ignite backbone, and god help you if you get a dodgy connection, as the easiest way to get it fixed is to cancel it and start over again.

        BT have also just announced that they're giving up network expansion until the demand picks up. How they expect demand to pick up when they're crippling the primary reason to get the service is beyond my comprehension.

        Still, it could be worse. Kingston has already bandwidth capped their ADSL offering in Hull, and aren't backing down at all. That's effectively running up the white flag and saying "get off our MAN"

        You're right that cable is £25, and I'm delighted (eventually) with my Telewest connection, but we've already seen NTL try to sneak through harsh restrictions on running servers (including P2P apps) and back down, but they've made it clear that it's on the cards. It's a hopeful sign that Telewest and NTL have teamed up to push cable though.

        But on balance, I have to agree with the tone of the article: telcos and cablecos have realised (or will very soon have to realise) that broadband isn't a cash cow (we're not going to pay them for content that we can get free elsewhere), and there's really very little that they can do to recoup their investment. Without goverment investment or tax breaks to make it ubiquitous, it's in real trouble, as it's only attracting heavy users and isn't sustainable at current prices.

    • by interiot (50685)
      Oh, bah.

      Look at what large companies pay for metered access. It's much higher outside of the US.

      Bandwidth costs ~$0.04 a megabyte in the US (and much higher rates, in the teens, for places like India) for my fortune 100 company. Count up how much you're costing your cable modem company, versus how much you're paying them. For me personally, I'm getting a tremendous bargain.

      • Wow. I'd hope for your sake that you're not the one negotiating with your internet providor. I've seen RETAIL bandwidth go for $2/gig in the US. Wholesale goes down lower than $1. At $2/gig, that's about $0.0019 per meg. That's a factor of 20-40x LESS than what your company is paying. I hope for your company's sake that you misplaced a decimal place somewhere.
  • by smoon (16873) on Saturday October 13, 2001 @08:09AM (#2423487) Homepage
    Cable Modem is alive and well in upstate New York. DSL however has always been much more difficult to get. Not surprising, when you look at the equation:

    Old copper + recalcitrant phone company / severe technical limitations + high cost == bad business.

    Lets face it, just getting DSL to work is virtually a miracle, and getting it to work on every copper line going to every home is simply unrealistic.

    DSL seems to be a good onesy-twosey kind of thing to implement, but I don't envy the people trying to make it work at thousands of subscriber sites.
    • by jilles (20976) on Saturday October 13, 2001 @08:29AM (#2423523) Homepage
      DSL works fine in the Netherlands. The problem in the US is badly managed telecom companies trying to revive their business using a silver bullet called DSL.

      In the Netherlands the copper network is in good shape and the largest problem has been getting the local telecom switches converted (a process that is still not completed everywhere). In most of the larger cities people have a choice between cable and DSL. DSL tends to be bit more reliable but also more expensive and cable has a bad reputation mainly due to the fact that companies like @home are active on the isp site there. The competition between cable and DSL has stimulated quality improvements in both.

      I've had my DSL connection for nearly a year now. Apart from some technical problems in the beginning, I've enjoyed a good connection and get exactly what I payed for. In any case, DSL and cable are of course a temporary solution until we all can have a fiber optic connection.

      Of course in Europe, local telephone connections not for free (like in the US), so people are more likely to take DSL to save money. Basically if, like me, you want to be online a lot, DSL is much cheaper than a regular modem connection. In the US your local connection is for free so you can be online all day relatively cheaply.
  • by Elwood P Dowd (16933) <judgmentalist@gmail.com> on Saturday October 13, 2001 @08:10AM (#2423489) Journal
    I remember quite a while ago, while I was like eleven years old, reading in Wired Magazine about the wave of the future. We were all going to use cable modems. So, I read the article, which was a rave review, salivating. And then I got to the end of the article and they said that you wouldn't get vastly improved uploading speeds. Just downloading. Because that's all home users do.

    I was eleven years old, definitely a home user, and thinking to myself, "What? That sucks."
    • So twice the upload speed of a 56K modem and 100 times the download speed sucks does it? I suppose for an 11 year old it would be an appropriate response. It doesn't suck when I can download an entire RH distro in less than half an hour.

      It's a stepping stone to a future where we all have fibre into our homes. But even that will most likely be severely restricted, especially in the US where RIAA and MPAA lobbyists will work to ensure that it is very difficult for home users to share files.

      That is, assuming that the US still exists in its present form and that those lunatic islamists haven't infiltrated the system enough to sabatoge infrastructure. I won't even go into the nuclear or biological warfare issues.

      Gawd help us all.

      • by Elwood P Dowd (16933) <judgmentalist@gmail.com> on Saturday October 13, 2001 @09:44AM (#2423652) Journal
        Well, at the time they were talking about having Cable downstream only, and you'd have a regular modem doing the upstream traffic. So that's why I thought it sucked then. The reason that I think it sucks now is that most of the time, my 56k modem is faster. I guarantee you, I'm not downloading 650 megs in an hour.
        • then you are being robbed. don't go quietly into that bleak bandwidth... rage on!

          I have been useing cable for almost five years, my suburb being a test market for mediaone express. i enjoy insane throughput nearly 27/7 (once... you... take... liberties... with certain.. throttle restrictions... oh actually even throttled i would be smoking any dialup anywhere, i still have to dial in when i use my laptops away from home and it "sucks".)

          sadly, AT&T @home bought mediaone and i am foreseeing terrible trouble, so i am investigating options, currently the chicago area still has plenty, thank god.
          • MediaOne's network has been called Continental Express, Highway One, Road Runner and finally @Home, but it is really something built locally and quite separate from @Home. The former-TCI parts of AT&T Broadband actually use the @Home plant, and are affected by @Home's problems. The former-MediaOne portions are not; they use the @Home trademark and little more, and are still taking orders and installing. And yeah, it works very nicely.

            I expect the other @Home cablecos to have a fix in place very, very fast. Either AT&T will "fix" @Home or something else will be done.
        • I've had Comcast @ Home [cable modem], outside of Philly, for about 3 or 4 years now and my speeds are still flying [their routing is par none]. Downstream I consistently have downloads (from fast) sites in excess of 300KBps (yes, that's bytes) and often much faster. I've pulled well in excess of 900KBps with simultaneous downloads. While the upstream is not nearly so hot, I do average around 90KBps. It's slowed down nominally since when I first got the service, but I'm still pulling the quoted rates. My latency is also still excellent.

          All this for about 40 bucks a month. I can hardly complain about that; my only real complaint is with their service departments (tech support and service), they're idiotic there.

          But given the money, I really can't expect much better. I still consider it quite a bargain though. I'm getting everything I paid for, and more. I find it difficult to believe that DSL can provide a better value and, empirically speaking, they simply don't.

          That said, even with certain mediocre broadband services, I find it difficult to believe that their relative lack of speed had much to do with today's problems. Besides the fact that it's still many times faster than dialup, not to mention less of a hassle once configure, most of the broadband companies were adding new customers on a fast as they could. Their problems are more financial. With DSL, the economics simply aren't there to compete against cable modem for the home user. With cable modem providers like @home, they've just made some really stupid financial moves, such as acquiring overly priced and troubled internet companies and maybe even underpricing the service a bit. I strongly suspect that the major cable modem services will survive. Even if @Home goes completely under, their existing cable modem service offers solid economics.
  • by lyapunov (241045) on Saturday October 13, 2001 @08:10AM (#2423491)
    For one thing, those that are lucky to qualify for DSL and have the service, never want to give it up, unless of course the next thing is faster.

    I think that the industry had a rough go of it at first because they assummed that this was the latest and greatest thing and everybody will be doing it. This is partly true. The technology was not all that it should be. I was not able to qualify for DSL until Qwest reevaluated its conditions on what allows a line to qualify. A lot of people I know would like to have DSL, but can't.

    My prediction for the future...

    1) A few companies will be able to continue their service, Qwest (I hope) and a few others.
    2) The technology will mature to reach the masses in an affordable manner.
    3)In 5-10 years (probably closer to 10) high speed internet access will be as common in America as cable tv.

    I would like to know that when cable companies started up if they did not have a similar history and set of problems. Does anybody know?
  • by ZanshinWedge (193324) on Saturday October 13, 2001 @08:18AM (#2423502)
    Believing what a pundit says is about like giving change for a 3 dollar bill. Tech pundits can't tell their ass from a hole in the ground. If you listen to Bob Cringely predict the future you might as well read PC Magazine's John Dvorak. God, I hate these morons, they think they are "on the edge", or "ahead of the trend", or "with it", or "legit", or "hip", or "knowledgeable about the industry", or "into the scene", or "not completely moronic" because they used napster or once saw a NeXT box or somesuch. Bah! They know nothing. They are about as disconnected from the trends and about as ill equipped (informationally as well as mentally) to predict future trends as is possible outside of living in a tribe in papua new guinea that still eats human flesh.

    Keep in mind that these are the same morons who thought vrml, push technology, and internet advertising would be the "next big thing".

    The fact is that broadband still has a substantial customer base that is willing to pay premium prices *AND* still has a large base of potential customers who do not have broadband but wish they do. The number of broadband users will only *increase*. Now, the number of small broandband ISPs may do all kinds of gymnastic activities and will most likely be much much smaller in the future. Nevertheless, broadband is still a viable technology, a hot commodity, a viable business, and a profitable enterprise. Broadband will not go away, not now, not ever.
  • Cringely (Score:5, Informative)

    by Wyatt Earp (1029) on Saturday October 13, 2001 @08:19AM (#2423503)
    Just because Cringely calls something dead, that doesn't mean it is. Or if something is alive, it doesn't mean he is. Take a look at the list of articles from his Old Hat page. It's like a tour of Wired covers.

    Here is Cringely on Excite@Home
    http://www.pbs.org/cringely/pulpit/pulpit1999012 1. html

    "Excite, like it's bigger, badder competitor Yahoo, is entirely about branding and brand awareness, so the name won't go away. Excite is better known than @Home. Current management at Excite won't change, either. Only the pockets get deeper. So in exactly the same spirit in which a little Mississippi long distance company became MCI-Worldcom, look for more content deals from Excite and more customer-acquiring deals from @Home, sucking-up smaller ISPs.
    The one thing that has changed in all this is the identity of the competition. Unable to beat Yahoo at its own game, Excite is using @Home to change the game. The new target is America OnLine. "

    While he has been right sometimes, he is just as often wrong, sometimes wildly wrong.

    Back in 1998 he proclaimed, loudly that the iMac's intro was going to be flawed by the fact that something like 18% of them didn't work. Well the failure rate was under the industry average when they actually came out of the box. I would provide a link, but his Old Hat list starts the week after this column was out. But I remeber it dangit.

    http://www.pbs.org/cringely/pulpit/pulpit1999010 6. html

    Then in Jan of '99 he said that Apple was screwed because it came out with different colors of iMacs and that was stupid.

    Or there was the decleration that broadband was going to make Blockbuster go out of business.

    "How long will it be before the time difference between driving to get video on demand or downloading from the Net is a wash? Three years, according to my figures. Add another three years for broad availability and to cover the impact of HDTV, which will make our video files five times larger again. In six years, then, the Blockbuster and Hollywood Videos of this country will probably be have sold their storefronts, too, leaving the strip malls of America to Starbucks and Bennetton. These intellectual property businesses will simply go away, along with what's left of the retail software business. All that will be left is books -- the oldest intellectual property vessels of all. "

    It's been three years and video on demand over broadband is only for the peer to peer file sharing crowd.

  • by Masem (1171) on Saturday October 13, 2001 @08:22AM (#2423510)
    It's just that Ma-Bell is doing it's best impersonation of T1000 from Terminator 2 and recollecting the bits of itself before it regains it's monopoly on phone lines.

    It's the fact that that last mile at all parts is *physically* controlled by some facet of the baby bells, none which are struggling in terms of cash flow, which is making DSL seem like a loser. Because they control both the physical access at the CO and at the user's home, every CLEC has to sit and wait for the ILEC to go out and do something; only recently have the ILECs (at least for Ameritech here in the midwest) have been hand-slapped for being 'intentionally' slow in responding to voice-line installs and problems for residental customers, but all that was was a hand-slap in terms of fines in the millions; DSL is hidden behind this issue. If the CLECs didn't have to deal with the ILEC in any way, I would fully expect most CLEC to be able to offer installes within 5 business days, as opposed to the 4-6 week standard now.

    However, fortunately, we have Verizon and PacBell at the end of lawsuits from DSL ISPs for being intentally slow, as well as the FCC watching out for the decline of CLECs (the extention on Rhythms' shutdown, for example). However, I still believe that the ownership of the last mile , from CO to the network interface, should not be in the hands of anyone that is providing the service along those lines; either the phone company can sell it off to a different group (possibly owned by the city/town as with mayn other utility services), or it can split off from that. As long as both the ILECs, CLECs, and standard phone ccompanies have to play the same pricing game, there would be much more competition in the DSL market.

    I doubt it will be dead, but it probably will end up as being two major CLECs (Covad and Worldcom) along with several ISPs that use ILECs for the last mile. The only probably now is that artificial bandwidth limits are coming into play particularly with those that use ADSL. Certainly speeds are much better than dialup, but given the projected rate of growth of multimedia on the web, more speed is going to be needed for the 'average Joe' and these artificial caps appear to be fixed at the current time.

    • I doubt it will be dead, but it probably will end up as being two major CLECs (Covad and Worldcom) along with several ISPs that use ILECs for the last mile.

      In case you hadn't noticed, Covad recently filed for chapter 11. [slashdot.org]. And the rest of the telecom business is going into the ground along with it.

      Things are looking bleak right now. Right now I expect the winner in all of this will be AOL/TimeWarner. :-(

  • Yeah, simply because there's no pay-for-play content for broadband on the Internet anymore, broadband is dead. This is, of course, bullshit.

    Cringley dismisses out-of-hand the porn industry, which is the #2 broadband content provider on the Internet. #1, you ask? Ever download an MP3?

    File-sharing is here to stay, and it's the driving force behind broadband. Nobody that has cable modems or DSL lines is going to give them up once they've gotten a taste of them, and nobody who has them will ever go back to modem unless it's their ONLY option.

    I'll believe it when I see it, Mr. Cringely.
  • by Psarchasm (6377) on Saturday October 13, 2001 @08:23AM (#2423513) Homepage Journal
    And in related news...

    Apple is dead.
    Java is dead.
    USB is dead.
    IBM is dead.
    Motorola is dead.
    and of course...
    Linux is dead.

    Pft...
  • by notestein (445412) on Saturday October 13, 2001 @08:25AM (#2423516) Homepage Journal
    I've had "Broadband" for seven years. A few years of ISDN, a few years of DSL, and a couple years of cable.

    After having DSL I moved and tried to get it again. After 6 months, 4 routers on my shelf, and receiving functioning cable, I gave up on it.

    I would not live without broadband. I'm not alone. All we are seeing now is the natural retrenchment that takes place after an all out competition to grab customers saw the entry of too many players with marginal prospects of profit. One day investors woke up and the retrenchment begin.

    I'm on Excite now but I'm in NYC. I expect that my service will survive even if Excite does not. Living out in the boonies is a different question. They're marginal to begin with.

    If I remember correctly phone service only has about 95-98% penetration. There are still plenty of people that don't have in-door plumbing. No market ever really fully saturates, the margins just get smaller.

    After retrenchment it will expand again. Years will pass. Cable and then fiber are the future. All but seriously marginal abodes will have fiber in 20 years.
  • DSL for everyone... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pipeb0mb (60758) <<ten.bmobepip> <ta> <bm0bepip>> on Saturday October 13, 2001 @08:27AM (#2423521) Homepage
    In Ellijay,GA, the local phone company [ellijay.com] offers DSL to 95% of it's customers.
    We're talking in the mountains too folks!
    Over 18,000 voice lines, 105 wire centers; they've converted hundreds of miles of copper to fiber, and are considering cable tv over fiber next year.
    And nearly EVERY customer has DSL access.
    The company spent about 1.5 million to make it happen, and customers get speeds up to 1.5mbs; they've yet to make a profit on the DSL, but, the customers are happy and are eating it up.
    My point: if a small company can do it, in rough and nonlinear terrain [mapquest.com] ANY company should be able to follow suit.
    Screaming broadband is dead is ludicrous.
    • they've yet to make a profit on the DSL

      Hmmm, this seems to be exactly what Cringley said in his article. Nobody, so far, has been able to make a profit and they are not likely to in the near(?) future.

      You make a good point about the small local providers though -- if there's any hope for the future it lies with them. The big guys overexpanded and overspent, and are now (justifiably) going bust.

    • Ellijavians are benefiting from two facts: (1) their territory is too difficult to service, so the big telecoms have no incentive to muscle in. (This kind of operation is supposed to be open-market, but we all know that that's a joke). (2) they've lucked out in the local company that fills the gap. ETC obviously is run by people with an involvement in the community and a practical interest in how they can employ technology to serve same. Some local telecoms are like that -- but not all.

      This is an example to cite to the "Marketplace will Provide" true believers. There's more to making technology work than simple profit-and-loss.

  • by pommaq (527441)
    I don't see broadband dying. I do see a lot of providers going under, but in most cases, it is quite well-deserved. There is demand enough to go around. The Internet has become an integral part of both businesses and homes. Any self-respecting (desk jobs, at least) business will have an always-on connection today. Even my non-nerd friends get cable or DSL at home simply because they spend time on the Internet, and they want fast and convenient access to it.

    However, a lot of providers got caught up in the hype. They raked in millions of investor money, set stupidly optimistic goals for themselves and got proverbial suits waaay too large for their proverbial bodies. Take Exodus for example, with their we-will-withstand-a-nuclear-war-bunkers.

    So basically, any firm who has asked itself "do the clients really need this, and can we afford to run it in the long term" will do just fine. This is perhaps the Old Economy way of doing it, but hey -- the time of crazy new business models with investors on speed is past. Perhaps rates will go up, perhaps one provider will establish itself as the Sole Monopolistic Ruler, perhaps we'll all get screwed in the end. But it's just capitalism. Nothing new.
  • I'll but not dead (Score:2, Insightful)

    by fizzbin (110016)
    I think Cringely's actual comments are true enough:

    Broadband IS dead, or certainly dying. By this, I mean that the industry for providing homes and individual users with Internet access at speeds in excess of 500 kilobits-per-second is not generally viable, and the current players in that business are likely to decline over time.

    But that's not "dead" or even "dying". I'll believe "dead" when Comcast turns off my Internet service.

    Cringely may have good insights but he needs to lose the sensational headlines.

  • by twitter (104583) on Saturday October 13, 2001 @08:51AM (#2423553) Homepage Journal
    Yes, established interests want to suppress this. Did you really expect the phone companies to give up their lucrative long distance communications rape? Nope, DSL is not going to happen with phone companies in charge of things. Do you expect the cable company to give up charging absorbadent fees to serve? No, they like their @work revenues, and you can expect poor TOS and port blocks. Of course the makers of slave-ware like M$ do not want a media capable of sustaining the development and distrobution of free software. Expect them to use DRM to eliminate all but approved filesharing by certified software. Do you expect existing publishers to support potential competition? No, don't expect the New York Times or any other publisher to cover the issue fairly. They all want to devide up this new media among themselves like traditional broadcast.

    They are all wrong. The net is the future of publishing. It is a public resource and should be protected by existing laws. To deny any person the ability to publish on the web on their own terms, without editorial control like any meat space news paper, it to deny that person constitutionally protected rights of free speech and press. There are no valid techincal justifications for this kind of violation. Effective public legislation should be going in the opposite direction, and those companies who oppose the public interest like this should be stripped of their franchises.

    We must not let anti-terrorist hysteria accelerate the loss of our rights. The USA ACT destroys our fourth amendment protection for security in our homes, possesions and personal effects. Beware of Anti-Hacker legislation that removes your first amendment rights to free speech and press.

    • Sorry, but Microsoft is a huge proponent of broadband. If broadband fails, then .Net fails. "software as a service" will probably require broadband connections. Most businesses today are on a revolving "subscription" for MS software anyway, so getting consumers paying $19.95/month for MS.NET is what they want. I could see Microsoft buying up @Home to turn it into MSN@Home. Broadband is crucial to their plans.

      On the other hand, if everyone drops broadband, .Net may fail and take a big chunk of Microsoft with it! :)
  • A Globe and Mail article [globeandmail.com] states that a $1.5 billion Cdn plan to bring broadband service to every rural Canadian will likely not go ahead due to the need to spend more money on security. Its a shame as farmers should have the right to download porn in a timely fashion as the rest of us.
  • by Dirty Sanchez King (527962) on Saturday October 13, 2001 @09:07AM (#2423575) Homepage Journal
    Then, there is an inevitable fall off in demand.

    Demand, as far as I can tell, has not slipped. Availability is the problem. I would sign up right now, if only DSL or cable were offered here. This is true for my co-workers and some of my neighbors.

  • Broadband is not dead. Broadband is really in the hand of large companies.

    We have seen Northpoint, Covad, Rhythms and now @Home all go down the tubes. These were all pretty much small companies who's business plans were centric to broadband, with exception of @home but it got bought by a doomed DotCom) But pretty much their ENTIRE revenue stream came from providing people service. The growing pains of emerging technolgies have really hurt these companies as the cost to set up and run service has been consistently outweighing incoming revenue. I would like to see some of their business plans and ETA to profitability.

    On the other hand - Who is still providing service? The major players left are the baby bells, and Roadrunner. All companies that get their major source of revenue from something else OTHER than broadband. The baby bells get it from telephone service. Roadrunner gets it from it's media conglomerate father. Starting to make sense?

    We're slowly seeing the remaining DSL assets get bidded on and bought by major companies. Maybe that will help their businesses survive and not leave their customers "out in the cold."
  • Here in Europe ADSL seems to be profitable for all companies providing the service. I pay about 35 USD /month for a 256/128Kb connection. Is it much cheaper over there un US so those companies are losing money? What's the exact reason why all of them are going down the drain?
    • Re:I feel curious. (Score:2, Informative)

      by rcs1000 (462363)
      OK. 'ADSL seems to be profitable for all companies providing the service.'

      From whence came that gem of wisdom.

      In the UK the largest ISP, Demon, owned by Thus, is unprofitable. BT charges all DSL ISPs an astonishing $60 a month for use of their copper. ISPs can only charge a small mark-up (c. $10). Would you like to run a broadband ISP on $10 per month? To make things worse, BT then limits the number of sign-up to 10 a week. That's right - you can only sign up 10 customers a week and only have $10 a month to maintain your equipment, rent your bandwidth and hire your support staff. British broadband ISPs are losing money hand-over-fist and when the VC money runs out will need to merge.

      In Germany, T Online, the largest broadband ISP is signing up lots of customers. Germany has the largest ISDN user base in the world and is the process of converting them to ADSL. Unfortunately T Online isn't making money out of broadband either, as customers are paying less per month for ADSL than they did for ISDN and T Online has to buy expensive equipment and do lots of costly installations.

      I'm not saying broadband is dead. Of course it isn't. Technology pundits should be banned from making ridiculous statements. But is true that there is no viable business model for providing ADSL right now.

  • I would like to say that this man is an idiot.

    I am a residential customer of Bellsouth Fastaccess DSL, I pay 45$ a month for 1.5 mbits down, and 256 kbits up.

    I have yet to have any service outages, and while the service is PPPoE based, it still works wonderfully reliably.

    My friend just signed up recently, and there's no reason to suspect his experience will be different.

    Just check dslreports.com, and notice how almost every entry on Bellsouth is a "smooth ride", or at least, acceptable.

    Broadband is far from dead.
  • by KGBear (71109)
    I'm in Brazil. I've 2 DSL connections, one at home, another at the office. Both are provided by one of the local phone companies. Telefonica's DSL offer is called "Speedy" and comes in one of two flavors:

    The "domestic" Speedy grants me a static IP address and is supposed to have the low ports (0-1024) blocked - but they aren't. It costs around US$ 45,00 /month in total. The one I have at home is 128 Kbps.

    The "business" Speedy at the office gives me 5 static addresses (although not in the same net block) and is currently 256 Kbps. It costs around US$ 80,00 and is promised to never have any ports blocked.

    Both flavors can be juiced up to 2 Mbps if I'm willing to pay up to US$ 400,00/month.

    Technically the service is provided by the phone company and you shouldn't need a specific ISP for it to work. Legislation, though, forces customers to sign up with the provider of their choice for what is essentially an "Internet tax" - it's the workaround found to resolve jurisdiction over the service.

    I call it a tax because the ISP side of the equation is totally unnecessary. The thing works equally well with or without the ISP. All the ISPs do for Speedy customers is to provide support - which I don't need anyway.

    Anyway, the formula seems to be working and a big portion of my city's Internet connection has become DSL lines, both for home and for business purposes.

  • by mindstrm (20013)
    Well.... I know in Canada, at least one of the major cable companies (Shaw Cable) who, of course, runs Shaw@HOME, has told customers that it will be continuing service regardless of what happens to @HOME.
    Network service will stay.. what will go are the @home specific services: email addresses, website, etc. They are already transitioning existing users, and signing new users up, using @shaw.ca email addresses I believe.

    As for DSL.. It's widely available in Canada... and doens't appear to be going bankrupt.. perhaps because it's actually run, for the most part, by our phone companies, not by middlemen (which, if you ask me, is the real problem)

  • retarded post (Score:2, Interesting)

    by mrm677 (456727)
    This is a stupid post?

    I live in a city of 150,000. Just signed up for DSL yesterday. I had 3 local choices for DSL (not Cable though).

    Broadband is not dead where I live (Wisconsin). Shit, my 65-year old father has DSL and he lives in a town of 8,000!!!
  • At first, I wanted DSL for broadband over cable. I called Verizon or whoever it was I was getting it from and they told me I was in perfect shape to receive it.

    And then they told me I was too far away.

    And then they told me I was fine again.

    And so on.

    Finally, After about a month and a week or two, I just called Time Warner to get road runner. By the weekend, it had been set up.

    I'm not suprised these guys are losing tremendous amounts of money. (DSL)
  • feeeeeeeew (Score:2, Funny)

    by WildBeast (189336)
    I read the subject like "Borland is dead" and got worried until I read the subject again :)
  • Blacksburg Broadband (Score:2, Informative)

    by hiner112 (525731)

    And at a different scale, apparently the DSL circuits in Blacksburg, VA (a place which liked to claim it was "the most wired town in America" not long ago) are now full, and turning away residential customers.

    In the big city of blacksburg (14,000 full time residents and 25,000 Virginia Tech students) the majority of people that are in the area already have broadband, either on campus or as an ethernet connection from their appartment to the campus network. I'm not sure what kind of connection the campus has but it is nice. Cable access is picking up any slack that is left by any dsl problems. As a matter of fact my appartment building is getting wired for cable internet access later this month. (Whoo hoo! No more 56k!)

  • All this makes me glad that Comcast is taking over their own network. I use Yahoo and CNN all the time for my content. I just want to pay for a pipe, that's all. Don't roll in some charges to cover some "content provider" I'll never use.

    Even more so than content surfing I telework 40+ hrs a week, so again.. I JUST NEED A FAST CONSUMER-GRADE PIPE.

    When will the cable companies do video-on-demand by putting hard drives in the digital cable boxes? How long can it take to xfer a 1GB movie to your cable box over the LOCAL LAN? It can't take all that long. Download it for $3, watch it an unlimited number of times for 3 days, and its automatically deleted. It just doesn't seem that hard to me.
  • Business 2.0 had an interesting article [business2.com] earlier this year about the possibility of using the relatively cheaper DSL service to replace T1 voice lines for small and medium businesses.
  • If broadband goes under, here's what I am going to do:

    I am going to run my own broadband service. That's right, I think I can make money where other companies failed. Why? Because these startups were idiots! Everyone wants broadband! My friends who really aren't computer people, are signing up for DSL or cable, happily shelling out $50/mo.

    If you can't make money providing a simple service to customers who will pay you $50 a month and be happy if they can just get their porn, well you're dumb. I may be oversimplifying things, but here is the fact: Plenty of times, people have wanted things. Stuff like cars, computers, and broadband Internet. If people want things, the bottom line is that SOMEONE is going to sell it to them! When these companies fail, it's not because people don't want the product - it's because of poor management. Management that couldn't see the eventual downturn in Internet companies was coming, management who thought $2M super bowl commercials, where most of the viewers weren't actually in the service area, were a really good idea.

    Yeah, the current round of dumbshit broadband providers is failing.. so what? There are millions of people out there, without service, who are PRAYING for someone to come along and take their $50/mo. Broadband just isn't going away.. it's not an inherently 'unprofitable' market. Few things are.
  • by st. augustine (14437) on Saturday October 13, 2001 @10:37AM (#2423789)
    The reason @Home is refusing to sign up new residential cable-modem subscribers is that the cable companies are way behind in passing along money for existing customers. The moratorium on new subscriptions is just a way to get the cable companies to cough up the money they already owe. It doesn't, in itself, mean they're going out of business. (Though it does look like they are going out of business, at least in their current form.)

    This from a friend of mine who's a sales support engineer in their business-customer division.

    (Also, while Cringely sometimes has interesting things to say, where Excite@Home's concerned, he's off his gourd. Remember his article a little while back about how unprofitable @Home absorbed poor profitable Excite and bled it to death? Never mind that the collapse in Web ad revenue is killing portals all over the place, that's got nothing to do with it -- just @Home's poor management, right?)

  • How can a dsl company possibly stay in business if they have to compete with the phone company? The phone company should not be allowed to sell the service. That gives them too much control on the market. If they'd simply put lines in and let everyone else sell the service then we'd have fair competition and the phone company couldn't promote it's own agenda as easily.

    Northpoint had excellent service. I wish they could have stayed in business, would have saved me thousands of dollars over the T1 that I have now. Both lines were actually with Savvis. T1 is just dang expensive for a small company. It's more than my house payment!
  • Part of what made/makes Blackburg so wired is not it's DSL, but the Ethernet which is wired into the some of the apartments. While it did suffer from a slump a few years ago, the amount of fiber in town seems to have been growing again, and more places are getting wired.

    ---------------
    What if the Hokie Pokie really is what it's all about?
  • I'm getting a T3 and a warehouse and starting a homeless shelter-style facility for displaced geeks.

    That's where the money is.
  • by cybrthng (22291) on Saturday October 13, 2001 @11:22AM (#2423907) Journal
    Verizon has to be the worst telco company out there. The terms of service now ban you from any "Server activity" which can include napster,
    musiccity/morpheus/winmx or anything that acts as a server to share files.

    Verizon is the first company to force "Net Consumer" where your connection is effectively limited to "consuming" the commercial aspects of the internet.

    This will be the death of the internet IMHO. The internet existed long before monopolies like verizon were able to control the whole east coast portion of it.

    It has been discussed on http://www.dslreports.com, but i can't say it enough. Send in your complaints. They're making people who need to to "use" the internet purchase a much more expensive "commercial" dsl connection.

    Why is it considered commercial for me to be able to send/receive email from work, login to my home pc and test things i want to learn? Why am i being charged more for not "consuming" what verizon shoves down my throat?

    To add to it, even when you signon to verizon's support website you have to register for there portal, there is no escaping the commercial grip verizon is enforcing on customers that don't want it.

    I think DSL companies are killing themselves.. no simpler way to say it. The internet isn't a system to consume like television, it is a 2 way interactive street. I want to run a node in which people can interact with me and i pay 100.00 bucks a month for the speed/connectivity to run a node and verizon now says that is illegal.

    I'm sorry, but verizon doesn't own the internet. Sure they own the pop, but the "internet connectivity" isn't Verizon's to filter and put laws on. Verizon doesnt own the content, sites, and ip that i use when i connect, so how can they claim responsibility to limit it when infact on the top of the TOS they say it isn't there's to limit.

    its hogwash i tell you. Verizon is like Comcast but changing the TV shows and overriding commercials and putting in what THEY think is right, how they think they can get away with that is beyond me.

    Q: How is Bin Laden like Fred Flintstone?
    A: Both may look out their windows and see Rubble.
  • ...continue to run fine, having saturated their bandwidth long ago...they are turning away customers.

    Why don't we just have more small-town ISPs? If I could get the funding (that's something I have absolutely no clue about) I'd even start something. It's a simple business. You just keep the servers up, charge people monthly, and have the cable company take care of the lines (ahhh...there's the problem!)

    Seriously, though, I've had cable for close to 4 years, by a small ISP that caters to just this area. I was worried that we would be screwed when comcast bought out our local cable company, but it appears they let the ISP continue business as usual *whew*.

    My only gripe is that although the service is reasonably good, when there is a problem, the admins are pretty clueless (microsoft shop, go figure). If I were to do it, I would certainly offer a better software solution than what they do for web-hosting, dns, dhcp, etc.
  • by wowbagger (69688) on Saturday October 13, 2001 @11:48AM (#2423986) Homepage Journal
    There are 2 problems with deploying broadband:
    1. The mistaken belief that "Monopolies are BAD"
    2. The technologies involved


    OK, let's look at the monopoly issue. Monopolies per se are neither bad nor unlawful - only when they are improperly regulated are they bad and unlawful. Only one electric company can provide service to my house, because it is just not cost effective for there to be more than one power line to my house. It's what is called a "natural monopoly" - look it up in your Econ textbooks. Now, if somebody comes up with a disruptive technology (Mr. Fusion, anyone?), then that natural monopoly ceases to exists, and competition is restored, but until then it makes sense to allow the monopoly to exists but regulate it!

    Now, DSL service is a natural monopoly - there is one owner of the phone lines running to my house, and therefor trying to create fake competition by allowing multiple companies to bill me just doesn't work. I get my telephony, DSL, and Internet service from the same company (my phone company), and so when I have a problem, it isn't the "The wires are bad, talk to the phone company" "No, the DSLAM is bad. Talk to the DSL company" "No, the router is dead. Talk to the ISP" garbage. I say "Gene, my DSL is down." "Yes sir, we'll get it fixed right away."

    The same for cable modems - there is only one owner of the coax to your house. Pretending there can be more than one provider of cable modem service is not the answer - regulating the cable company is.

    Now, on to the second item - the technologies involved.

    cable modems - a hacky technology done right. The idea of shared bandwidth, limited upstream bandwidth, and using a line topology rather than a star topology went out of fashion when 10Base-2 died. However, due to the standards, I can buy just about any cable modem, take it home, plug it in, call the cable company and give them the MAC, and I'm on the air.

    DSL - a better technology done horribly wrong. Layering TCP atop PPP atop ATM was bad and wrong. I was helping an aquantance fix his DSL service - we had to reset his router to factory defaults. We couldn't get it to connect because it was unable to automatically determine the virtual circuit number - it saw the DSLAM, but it wouldn't move freight. We ended up calling the DSL provider, and waiting an hour and a half for them to call us back with the parameters to reset the router. Not that we were doing anything complex - we weren't doing VOIP or VODSL - we were just moving TCP/IP packets.

    Wireless Great in that there is no "last mile" to wire up, but there are only so many MHz of bandwidth to modulate a signal on. You get too many customers in an area, and you are going to get slowdowns.

    Satelite Sorry, but until somebody can work out how to get a signal to geosync and back faster than C, this is great for FTPing down an ISO, but not for browsing.

    When we finally realize that the wire to your house is a natural monopoly, allow the companies to own it as such, and then have the local corporation commissions watch them like hawks, we will always see broadband being priced below what it really costs to provide, and thus going out of business.

    One last thought: what if we did a Rural Electrification Act style program for deployment of broadband?
    • The mistaken belief that "Monopolies are BAD"

      Mistaken? You can tell me I'm mistaken when:

      1) PacBell no longer says it'll take 3 months to set up my DSL

      2) PacBell's DSL in the area doesn't go down for hours every week

      3) My local phone bills don't still cost more for a phone call several blocks down than a call to Texas

      4) Cable to my apartment is less than $40 a month, base package

      5) PacBell's tech support does something other than open tickets, and then close them without notifying the complainant or fixing the problem

      6) The traffic on the cable modem network doesn't consist largely of port scans from Code Red

      7) I can actually access the web pages I want to access from my Linux box

      Well, looks like you've got your work cut out for you. Don't worry-- if it looks too easy to accomplish, I can find more items to add to my list.
      • OK, let's take a look:
        1) PacBell no longer says it'll take 3 months to set up my DSL
        Not knowing where you are, but is PacBell still a monopoly in your area? Could the real problem possibly be that PacBell is busy supporting not only their own DSL customers, but also the customers of other DSL providers that are nothing but billing services that cost PacBell money in order to provide sham competition.

        2) PacBell's DSL in the area doesn't go down for hours every week
        There are strong service support regulations for true monopolies. Again, is this really a problem with them being a well regulated monopoly?

        3) My local phone bills don't still cost more for a phone call several blocks down than a call to Texas
        Sounds like you should change your intrastate long distance provider. You can, you know, because they aren't a monopoly anymore.

        4) Cable to my apartment is less than $40 a month, base package
        Not knowing what your basic cable package contains, nor what your basic cable bill is, I have no way to judge if it is unfair. Have you considered writing your local Corporation Commission and bitching to them, since they are the ones who regulate a monopoly? Where I live, the local cable company has been gigged several times by the local corporation commission for excessive prices. The CC has the legal right to do this only because they are a monopoly.

        5) PacBell's tech support does something other than open tickets, and then close them without notifying the complainant or fixing the problem

        Again, is this a problem with them being a well regulated monopoly, or with them having to deal with the other provider's customers?

        6) The traffic on the cable modem network doesn't consist largely of port scans from Code Red

        7) I can actually access the web pages I want to access from my Linux box


        And what monopoly is this because of? Microsoft, who are in court because they are not regulated as a monopoly yet.

  • Broadband is alive and well north of the border. Right now, Bell (the local monopoly) is offering ADSL for $20/month for the first six months (price goes up to the regular $40/month after).

    $20 CAD = $12 USD

    Imagine: $12 a month for DSL. My last order (January) took only 4 days to get it up and running. Compare that to 84 days (literally) from Telocity in San Francisco.

    My dad got a cable modem. He's paying $40 a month. And they allow connection sharing -- just a hub and DHCP, no special software, nothing.

    At work, we have DSL from dsl.ca (someone not the phone monopoly) an we even have a static IP. Imagine that.

    Paul
  • Broadband/DSL/Cable modem are brand new - 3-4 years young only. We have a long way to go before we can judge whether these technologies are doing well or not. By subscribing to these tech we are setting a trend. Car, telephone,TV are 70 + years old and www internet is 10 years and email is 30 year old only. So let us all hang in there, subscribe to DSL, Cable modems, keep using FreeBSD, Linux and keep going.
  • Broadband: I'm not dead!
    Cringely: Yes, he is.
    Broadband: I'm not.
    Cringely: Well, he will be soon. He's very ill.
    Broadband: I'm getting better!
    Cringely: No you're not. You'll be stone dead in a moment.
    Broadband: I don't want to go on the cart
    Cringely: Oh, don't be such a baby.
    Broadband: I feel fine.
    Cringely: Can you hang around? He won't be long.
    Broadband: I think I'll go for a walk.
    Cringely: You're not fooling anyone
    Broadband: I feel happy! I feel happy!
  • The problem with DSL, and to a lesser extent, cable modems, is that installations are expensive. DSL installs, in particular, take too much installer time and tech support. This dwarfs the costs of providing the service once it's running.

    Much of the install-cost problem for DSL providers is self-inflicted. US telcos have generally chosen to provide DSL through a separate subsidiary, then outsourced the physical install, and bundled the service with an ISP account. The result is that four organizations have to cooperate to install a DSL line. As commentators have pointed out, most of this coordination takes place via phone calls and fax messages. That's the real problem.

  • by destiney (149922) on Saturday October 13, 2001 @12:39PM (#2424198) Homepage

    I called @home this past Monday because my network connection was dropping packets like hot potatoes. Once I got a human on the phone, I told them I was pinging my gateway and I was seeing a 70% packet loss. He immediately told me, "Don't you think you ought to leave those kind of things to us technicians?" What an insult! I didn't know you had to be a certified phone jockey just to know how to ping an IP?!?! So anyway, after _he_ pinged my gateway for a few minutes, he confirmed the enormous packet loss and scheduled a trouble call, and much to my surprise - for the very next day even.

    The next day came and no-one showed up. I work from home and I was here all day, not to mention my very loud doorbell. No excuses, they simply didn't show up. I waited a couple of hours past the scheduled appointment time, just to be a courteous end user, and then I called back to see what happened. The technician I spoke to this time was very quick to apologize for the mishap and very hurriedly tried to see what the issue was. He said my account info never made it onto their outgoing trouble call list for that particular day. I said OK, honest mistake, and I re-scheduled a new trouble call. The new appointment time sucked though, it was 3 days away. I figured I might have to do the dial-up thing if things got really bad, as if a 70% loss wasn't bad enough.

    So Friday, the new appointment day, finally arrived. The tech was supposed to be here between 4:00 and 6:00pm. Much to my disbelief no-one showed yet again. It was Friday afternoon, and my need to drink beer overcame my need for less packet loss so I decided not to call it in. But this morning I got up and immediately gave them a call. I found yet again my account was not added to the outgoing trouble call list for the day, and yet again I would have to be rescheduled. At this point I was ready to really lose my cool and start telling them all my favorite curse words, but I didn't. I rescheduled (again), but this time it was for 5 days away. Pretty sad that they have 5 days worth of trouble calls scheduled. That's a lot of people!

    Of course I've been hearing about @home's recent money problems, but does lack of money make networks break? Or is it really a lack of competent @home technicians and phone jockeys? I'm totally fed up with the @home run-around.

    • @home does suck.

      As most /.ers are aware, most phone techs know far less about networks than the average /.er. This aside, when I was on @home - my service *SUCKED*. Now, I am still "technically" on @home - but my provider (Shaw) has moved away from @home and begun to provide its own cable service.

      Surprisingly the Shaw service here has improved to the point where it has surpassed the local Telus DSL lines - @home users here were deserting the service for Telus DSL in droves. Shaw realized this, and separated themselves from the usless @home network.

      In that separation - static IP's have become STATIC. (This sounds dumb, but "static" IP's on @home used to *CHANGE* every 6 months - WTF?) My bandwith has quadrupled, I can now get downloads up to 500kb/s (when previously, ~180 was the max).

      Smaller compaines are more mobile in the broadband market - it is not yet ready for a large scale monopoly. Local "monopolies" are more versatile, and offer better service.

      The companies will change - because they will have to or go out of business.

      Make certain you *COMPLAIN* about the level of service though, or the companies will not change as they have no reason to do so. (They believe that their customers are happy.)
  • by bfields (66644) on Saturday October 13, 2001 @12:49PM (#2424233) Homepage
    But wait, there's more! Not only is the broadband carriage business in trouble -- so is the broadband content business. There isn't a single company providing high-bandwidth content to mass consumers that is making any money on it.... When you watch a broadband video clip on abcnews.com or cnn.com, both companies are losing money to bring you that content. And the accountants have spoken: There is no way they'll ever make that money back. So companies that used to put a lot of money into high bandwidth content are putting in less and less money, so there is less and less content available. If you thought it was bad before, it will get worse.

    Cringley falls into the same trap as everyone else when talking about what broadband is used for. It's not about speed. Nobody cares about "multimedia", and the reason that the video clips on CNN's website will never attract customers is that none of their customers care about the stupid video clips, not even the broadband customers; I'll go to their website to read the articles, and I'll watch TV if I want video. (When the major news sites pared down their website to the bare essentials on September 11, did you miss all the fluff?)

    The reasons I have DSL are:

    • It allows me to log in to my home computer from work and while travelling.
    • It gives me the option of running various kinds of servers and persistent clients that give me more control over my web pages, my email, etc.
    • I can use google more easily for quick reference, since I don't need to wait to make the connection and don't need to worry about hogging the phone line.
    • I can download software, OS upgrades, etc. This dosn't require lots of Mbps, just a persistent connection--I can always let downloads run overnight.

    I wish broadband companies would stop trying to sell their service as some sort of expensive low-grade form of cable TV and instead figure out how to explain to customers the real advantages of a reliable, persistent internet connection. As first steps they could stop blocking ports and using dynamic IPs, and they could stop advertising high Mbps numbers, which nobody believes, and "streaming video", which nobody wants.

    --Bruce Fields


    • Excellent post. You spelled it out pretty thoroughly. If you weren't already at five, I'd mod you up even more.

      No one cares about "streeeeeaming video"!

      Nobody cares about streaming anything.

      People don't want to tie up their phone line by reading their email. They want to browse a few of their favorite sites and not sit there twiddling their thumbs while the (inevitably bloated with graphics) page loads.

      Some people want to play a decent low-latency game of quake (though unfortunately many broadband providers seem to trade latency for bandwidth whenever possible).

    • The reason most people have DSL is porn.

      I'm not joking. "Streaming video" right? Which sites really use it? Porn sites. Which sites propelled RealMedia into the spotlight? Which sites have consistantly upped the demand for bandwidth as soon as it becomes available? Which sites have been the most successful online, before and after the "dot-com" bubble?

      Admit it, Slashdot, porn makes the Internet go round.

      As for the rest of your reasons for using DSL, they're pretty marginal. Remember that during the outbreak of Code Red, most of the home clients running IIS who got infected didn't even know they were running it. Having a static IP is a big deal for you and me, but it isn't to people who are used to dial-up ISPs and have never thought it possible or necessary.

      There are things broadband ISPs can do to attract people like us, but, let's face it, we're more of a liability than a benefit: we use more than our alloted share of bandwidth (much less than the number they quote in the commercials, and easily exceeded by your distro's latest ISO), bitch at the slightest problem or outage, and expect a lot more out of the service than your average user. They don't want us. They want the average user who sits at home collecting his porn and doesn't bother them.
    • Cringley falls into the same trap as everyone else when talking about what broadband is used for. It's not about speed.

      I'm still online with phone lines that give me the equivalent of a 28.8. Web pages don't take that long to load, and I've discovered that even with a lousy dial-up account, I can download or
      peer to peer trade one hell of a lot over the course of a month with the right software. Right now, it's costing me 19.95 to do this. I would pay 10 bucks more a month for 256 or 512K access, as long as I can do all that I can do with my dial-up access. Extra speed is just not worth all that much to me; I have reliable connectivity and patience, and only so much time in my life to mess with whatever I'm downloading.

      The real problem with broadband is that it's a luxury for a lot of ordinary users and there's no compelling reason to cause them to upgrade. I'm not interested in having it unless it's inexpensive.
  • Broadband is a concept; DSL and cable are the current mass-market technologies for delivering the concept as a service. Just because the technology sucks, that doesn't mean the concept is bad.


    Most posts here (as well as Cringely) have overlooked wireless. While the infrastructure for cable and DSL (miles of cables and vast banks of centralized switches) are ~ twenty and fifty years old, respectively, wireless relies on fresh technology with very low cost of installed infrastructure. Further, as the technology changes, you change the transmitters and receivers and software, which are cheap compared to laying and maintaining cables and switches, and independent of any fixed wire technology.


    Who doesn't have a cell-phone now? I pay 2 cents a minute to call anywhere in the US. Yet no one foresaw this as little as half a dozen years ago. I don't even bother locking my car when my cellphone's on the front seat...it's more hassle for someone to steal one now than to buy one.


    Broadband is already far along in the process of co-opting the excellent technologies developed for digital cellular. I traded in my T1 line last year for a 10MBit wireless connect beamed to me direct from my ISP. It costs me 35 bucks a month.The ISP can give this service to anyone within ten miles (they put up a little antenna on a building downtown). I routinely get 750KBytes up and down in real-world use.


    Broadband is not endangered, only the retro technologies used to deliver it. Within the next few years, small entrepreneurs like my ISP will rapidly move in to fill the vacuum (pun intended) left by the likes of @Home. Broadband is not capital intensive, it is imagination intensive, so it plays to the strengths of smaller companies. The typical wireless entrepreneur will not have to protect or monetize existing assets like phone wires or television cables. Wireless can be installed simply and cheaply, and it works right away.


    I think we'll see a replay of the situation in the mid 90s, when limber ISPs pioneered services based on (cheap) modem banks, then were amalgamated into the larger telcos and cable companies. Fast-moving technologies always favor the fast-moving players.

  • We just ordered Sprint's ION service [sprint.com] -- due in our house in two weeks. It's 8Mbits down/ 1Mbit up, rolled in with local phone service and $0.07/minute long distance -- all for $100/month. If they can make it work at that rate, it'll eat DSL's lunch.

    Cringely didn't seem to notice that, two years after their initial announcements, Sprint has finally rolled out their service. Based on the web site and hype, it seems to (finally) be everything they promised back in 1999.

    I don't have the service yet -- so I can't comment on how good it is -- but I'll post something when it's installed.

  • by isdnip (49656) on Saturday October 13, 2001 @02:42PM (#2424597)
    Cringely is really off the wall this time. Yes, there are lots of failed providers of broadband, but there are others doing okay. Mostly small ones who don't have NASDAQ ticker symbols and big publicity.

    @Home failed because it was a bad business. They had a nice gig doing the ISP stuff for the cable industry, but they got caught up in dotcom mania and bought the third-rate search engine Excite for a ridiculous amount. Excite never had a prayer of breaking even, so the whole thing was weighted down. Excite was also irrelevant to @Home's mission, which was to provide the cablecos with an ISP back end.

    The data CLECs who tanked had bad business plans too. They mostly spent too much on collocation cages (needed before 1998 to access the loops) and they went into each others' markets, so a single telco CO would have half a dozen of them dividing the market among them. They also designed for a high breakeven, assuming that the others would have no market share. And they had big expense structures. So they tanked.

    Cablecos do not need @Home any more. They can create in-house ISPs, as MediaOne did (ignore the @Home label, which is a borrowed trademark used because AT&T now owns them). They can and will also learn to work with ISPs, providing (without being forced) choice in ISP service. That does require some serious network reconfiguration, and since @Home had exclusive contracts with most of the cablecos into 2002, the cablecos aren't ready to open up. But with @Home finally being put out of its misery, the cablecos might finally recognize that they should work with other ISPs.
  • Broadband is dead? Lucky thing I kept my old '386 running TBBS. I'll just dig my 2400 bps modems out of the attic and fire up the old Bulletin Board. Now if only I can remember how to configure Fidonet...


    Seriously, like others have said, I've been broadband for years. I had ISDN, then DSL, and am currently running both DSL and cable as I evaluate the latter. (Cable is winning.) Broadband is a pretty lively corpse around here!


    "Good times and bum times, I've seen them all and, my dear, I'm still here."

    -- Follies

  • *DSL is in complete disarray.
    You don't need to be a Cringely to predict *DSL's future. The hand writing is on the wall: *DSL faces a bleak future. In fact there won't be any future at all for *DSL because *DSL is dying. Things are looking very bad for *DSL. As many of us are already aware, *DSL continues to lose market share. Red ink flows like a river of blood.
    Let's keep to the facts and look at the numbers.

    ADSL leader PacBell states that there are 7000 users of ADSL. How many users of SDSL are there? Let's see. The number of ADSL versus SDSL posts on Usenet is roughly in ratio of 5 to 1. Therefore there are about 7000/5 = 1400 SDSL users. MVL/DSL posts on Usenet are about half of the volume of SDSL posts. Therefore there are about 700 users of MVL/DSL. A recent article put Cable Modem at about 80 percent of the Broadband market. Therefore there are (7000+1400+700)*4 = 36400 Cable users. This is consistent with the number of Cable Usenet posts.

    Due to the troubles of Qwest, abysmal sales and so on, ADSL went out of business and was taken over by Northwood who sell another troubled broadband service. Now Northwood is also dead, its corpse turned over to another charnel house.

    All major surveys show that *DSL has steadily declined in market share. *DSL is very sick and its long term survival prospects are very dim. If *DSL is to survive at all it will be among hardcore child pornography dabblers. *DSL continues to decay. Nothing short of a miracle could save it at this point in time. For all practical purposes, *DSL is dead.
  • by Graymalkin (13732) on Saturday October 13, 2001 @10:40PM (#2425808)
    Broadband is failing because their market analysis was way off bead and their business model was ridiculous. Somehow they expected to get the CLECs and ILECs to first provide them with the external bandwidth and space for their DLS equipment and be able to undercut the price that the LECs could offer for the same service. Typical dot-bomb thinking. Broadband technology isn't dying and neither is availability, what is dying are the companies with the shittiest management and business plans. THis is natural and ought to speed the fuck up so LECs can buy the equipment cheap and increase their own capacity. I think municipalities ought to start laying down their own fibre (maybe alongside or inside gas lines or power lines) and then reselling it to LECs and cable companies for whatever they want to do with it. The cost would end up subsidized inside city taxes you're already paying and the work will be done by crews already paid for to do some other work. Costs for broadband would be dirt cheap especially if the resale contract to the LECs put the responsibility on them to do line termination and all switching/routing.

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