For years and years and years, the conventional wisdom with regard to high-speed internet use in the home is that there just needs to be one killer app and everyone will switch to cable/DSL/T1.
Nowadays we have those killer apps, and they aren’t really apps at all but “killer content”: porn, mp3′s and movie torrents. People also use high speed internet at work and school and get used to having ultra-fast net 24/7. Broadband rates in the US right now are at about 63% for active internet users, which is an undefined metric as far as I can tell, 56% among all “internet subscribers” (i.e people who pay for internet in their home) or about 12 out of every 100 people overall.
(nifty chart and dubiously acquired statistics here.)
But there’s a big stumbling block here. And it is that dealing with broadband providers sucks.
The telcos have a stranglehold on the broadband market. You can choose to work with an indie ISP, those that are left, like Speakeasy, Drizzle (in Seattle), New York Connect, etc. But for 90% of the country, people have a choice between their local cable monopoly (in Seattle the cable company you go with is dependent on a deal made many moons ago between your apartment building owner and the cable company) and their local telco monopoly (Qwest, etc.).
Let me ask you this: how is YOUR DSL/cable customer service? Because ours is terrible. We pay $65/mo for a really crappy wireless cable modem with a top speed of 11.00 mbps that is constantly dropping the signal, conflicting with other networks, and generally Not Working Right.
I am the designated technical support person between my roommate and I, so I get to spend a lot of time on the phone with Time Warner (yuck! ugh!) Roadrunner Cable. The process usually goes like this:
1. Dial number, go through automated voice-activated service that ends up with me red in the face yelling at the phone like a crazy
2. Hold for 30 minutes
3. Explain problem to Tier 1 techs who can’t help me
4. Hold for 30 minutes
5. Explain problem to Tier 2 techs who can’t help me
6. Hold for 30 minutes
7. Explain problem to Tier 3 techs who schedule someone to come out and help me in two weeks
Two days later, modem magically starts working again.
This is not the kind of customer service I should get paying $780/year for internet access. And I don’t think this is atypical. The long waits, rude and clueless customer service people, and generally extremely unpleasant experiences associated with broadband are a severe stumbling block for increased broadband adoption. A couple hundred thou on hiring more customer service peeps would go a long way towards making the process more bearable.
Also: I am “not allowed” to port forward on my router, which is not really a router at all but just a device that connects me to the router owned by Roadrunner, which of course is inaccessible and all locked up. So I get crappy torrent speeds and would have a very hard time if I was a gamer or someone else who depended on port forwarding for some of my applications. I can’t stand being treated, as a customer, like an idiot who can’t be given sharp objects in case I stab myself in the neck. I have got to get a new provider.
(Or is Time Warner just singularly terrible? Recs for NYC broadband providers please!)