I’m old enough to remember when any discussion of broadband was mostly about coaxial cable and video services provided by cable television systems. Broadband cable was a way to enrich the over-the-air broadcast service, make TV stations easily receivable and perhaps import a few distant broadcast signals. When HBO became available off the satellite for cable systems in about 1975, we knew almost instantly that this was going to be something big. BUT, even in 1975 we had the notion that probably broadband cable could provide more than entertainment television. If you had broadband wires into many homes and businesses, these cables could be used for education and a host of other applications. For example, about this time I was involved with an NSF grant that was awarded to Dr. Thomas F. Baldwin, a Professor and researcher at Michigan State University. The specific grant was to use broadband to distribute educational content, specifically designed for firemen in Rockford, IL. In short the broadband cable running to all of the fire stations could be used to train firemen on a variety of new fire fighting techniques and technologies during the down time in the firehouse. This was before the commercial Internet. Sounds a little primitive now, but everything was a little primitive before the Internet was widely available. For me, this was my first phase of broadband.
Broadband cable grew, but that growth was fueled by more TV, superstations, more channels, new content, new programming networks and Americans loved it. Cable was it!!! Cable television was broadband.
My first phase lasted from about 1974 to 1992.
My second phase of broadband was the opening up of the Internet to commercial use. To the extent that you were fortunate enough to have a computer with a modem, a browser and a phone line, you could, through a painful process, get to the Internet. Along with others, I was amazed. The Internet was changing everything and we knew it almost instantly. Broadband took on a new form. Now, telecom companies were to become HOT! Myself, I went through nearly every dial-up modem upgrade, I tried “switched 56.” I tried an asymmetrical service called DirecPC, selecting content over a dial-up modem and having that content sent to me via satellite. I tried ISDN, which I think cost me over $500 a month for a not-very-good service. I also had a managed T-1 line that cost about $1600 per month. These were all attempts by me to get faster and faster Internet experiences. Speed matters! Telecom was sitting on top of the world, but most in the telecom world were asking this question: would the Internet really catch on?
Gosh, it did!!!!
And the cable guys said “wait a minute, we already have broadband pipes into many homes.” We could just take a little sliver of the RF on our coax cables and we could provide Internet service. @Home was born. Oh, and BTW, we can also provide phone service.
Gosh, the Internet caught on even more!!!!!
This second phase was from about 1993 to 2006. In this phase, the telecom guys said, “well, if the cable guys can provide broadband and phone service, then perhaps we should build broadband systems that can deliver voice (because that’s what we are known for), video and the Internet.” “We have to compete with cable.” The telecom guys faced some big challenges here. To some extent they are still working through those challenges. Copper wire is very prevalent. Copper wire was not built to do what broadband cable and fiber can do.
Competition between these two industries, cable and telecom, was good because it helped us to get to a broadband world “almost instantly.” Today, broadband is like air.
My third phase was experiencing true broadband in my home. I have a symmetrical 75Mbps (up and down) fiber to my home and I’m paying a whopping $60/month. It is extremely reliable; it never goes down. The ISDN was not reliable and cost about 9 times more. The T-1 was reliable (it was managed by AT&T) but at a cost of about 25 times more than I’m paying now. I have a mobile backup if the fiber ever does go down, which it does not. This phase is about 2006 to 2010.
My fourth phase of broadband is/was the fun part. What kinds of devices could I hang onto my broadband? By now, I’ve discovered there is no limit. It is almost inconceivable today that one can purchase a consumer electronics device and that device is not connected or related in some way to the Internet.
And all of the things that I can do: buy stuff, buy stuff that I don’t need, do online banking, pay bills, listen to music, watch videos, sell stuff (sell my stuff to someone else while they sell their stuff to someone else, etc., etc.), trace my heritage, invest, learn, check facts, keep up with my “friends,” find interesting “facts” in an instant, get directions (how did I get around before Waze or Maps?), find haters, search for anything, move my photos to the cloud, order food and drink, play games with myself and others, check on high school friends, access criminal reports for old acquaintances, file my taxes, order medical supplies, send message to my doctor, compile my exercise activities from my four wirstbands, adjust the temperature in my home when I’m home or away, see all of my house inside and out with the 10 cameras, find out how much water my household is using relative to every other home in my zipcode, check my energy usage, apply for credit, become an expert on the car/truck that I want to purchase and try to figure out a way of NOT going into the dealership, keep track of everything that I eat and drink and how many calories I consume, study 50 different ways to lose weight, find out about wars and violence all over the world….
The point being…I can do a lot! More than I ever imagined! The Internet and broadband are miracles of modern time.
I stream, therefore I am.
I just checked the dashboard of my router and there are 41 devices connected to the Internet through that router. I could not even identify all of them (maybe there are lurkers).
My next phase of broadband. I am swimming in content. Too much to consume so I’ve decided to read more books, delivered over the web, of course. I can’t find anything without a software search function. Thank God for search functions or I could not find a thing. My folders are full of stuff from decades ago. I’m constantly worried about intrusions to the network and viruses and malware. I’m constantly updating software and updating antivirus and malware software. I have hundreds of thousands of photos, mostly not organized. I have 14TB of music that I’ve stopped listening to because I cannot find what I want when I want it. I end up listening to Internet Radio because it is way easier than fighting through the 14TB. I order more than 50% of what we consume in the household from Amazon Prime. I also have more than a sneaking suspicion that almost all of my online activity, including my use of Windows 10 is just about advertising directed at me. My wife looks at glass cutting tools on Amazon and I have advertising from these vendors on the side of all of my web pages.
Broadband! I could not live without it, but it has changed the way that I live with it!