Today’s home is not complete without an Internet connection. There are more ways than ever for homeowners to bring Internet connectivity to their homes such as dial-up, DLS, cable broadband, satellite Internet, fiber optic service and wireless Internet.
According to statistics from the International Telecommunications Union and the Neilsen/NetRatings, the percentage of Americans with an Internet subscription has increased from 44.1 percent in 2000 to 72.5 percent in 2008. The current number of Internet users in the U.S. is just over 300 million. With so much demand for Internet access, it is small wonder that the ways in which homeowners can connect their homes to the Internet has risen as well.
The Need for Speed
Almost 3 out of 4 people in the U.S. had an Internet connection at home in 2008, according to the International Telecommunicatons Union and the Neilsen/NetRatings.
The need for a high-speed Internet connection in the home is driven by a number of industries. On the entertainment front, high-definition programming and on-demand content requires bandwidth to optimize user experience and shorten the waiting time on downloaded movies and music. New home security systems require an active, always-on Internet connection to enable two-way communication with a monitoring station and allow for effective remote monitoring of the home. “Smart” homes utilize an active, high-speed Internet connection for integration of—and remote access to—the home’s automated subsystems, including heating, cooling and lighting. As user demand for these advanced technologies increase, so too will the number of high-speed Internet subscribers.
Broadband access in the home can bring additional educational and convenience benefits as well. “A single mom with kids can take online course from home with a high-speed connection,” says Sylvia Rosenthal, executive director for the Alliance for Public Technology (APT), one of many organizations promoting the expansion of broadband Internet availability across the country. “High-speed Internet enables the deaf and hard-of-hearing to have real-time video communication,” she continues. “The subtleties of hand movements with sign language get lost with a slower connection.”
Defining High-Speed There are numerous organizations undertaking initiatives to bring high-speed Internet access to everyone in the United States. Agreeing on the definition of “high-speed,” however, has been one of the challenges facing these groups. “Most agree that the definition should evolve, just as the technology advances,” says Rosenthal. The FCC currently defines “high speed lines” as those providing 200K, or 200 Kilobit-per-second, speeds. “Most agree that the FCC standard is too low,” Rosenthal adds. The FCC itself appears to acknowledge this issue, and states on its Web site that the standard is under review.
Other organizations use comparisons between the U.S. and the rest of the world to underline the pressing need to better broadband speeds and access. Speedmatters.org is a program conceived by the Communication Workers of America that recently issued a report stating the median download speed in the U.S. is about 2.3 Mbps, while countries like Japan (63 Mbps), South Korea (49 Mbps) and France (17 Mbps) boast significantly faster speeds. While these countries do not face the geographical challenges that a large country like the U.S. faces, the comparisons nonetheless illustrate how far behind this nation is on the Internet speed front. “It isn’t just an issue of penetration—it’s also about performance,” says George Ou, analyst for the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), a nonprofit organization promoting polices to advance technology in the U.S. “High-speed Internet access is a great enabler for economic opportunities,” Ou adds. “Most jobs are found online, and computer literacy is a major job requirement.”
Dial-Up Despite faster speeds available through cable, DSL and fiber services, dial-up Internet is still offered across the country. Because dial-up Internet service only requires a working phone line, dial-up service brings connectivity to homeowners living in areas where higher-speed options like cable, DSL and fiber are not available.