Report: U.S. 17th In Broadband Speed
That's higher than the worldwide figure of 1.5 Mpbs, but lower than average speeds in 16 other countries. Malik (and others) expect connections in the U.S. to continue to get faster, thanks to fiber-optic lines and DOCSIS 3.0 (Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification) -- which allows for speeds up to 50 Mbps downstream.
Comcast alone recently said DOCSIS 3.0 is now available to 30% of its network and, by the end of the year, will be available to 65%.
Yet simply making next-gen lines available doesn't guarantee that people's connections will become speedier. Pricing likely will remain a hurdle -- especially given the current economic crunch. Comcast currently charges up to $140 a month for its fastest service -- significantly more than the $40-$50 monthly fees for most cable broadband. Of course, some people will be willing to pay more for super-fast service. But it's not clear whether enough consumers will agree to pay more than $1,500 a year for high-speed lines.
At the same time, broadband companies continue to roll out monthly caps or other limits on use. Comcast users, for instance, max out at 250GB. Currently, the vast majority of subscribers use far less than 250 GB -- but some industry observers say it's inevitable that usage will increase as more bandwidth becomes available.
Still, Comcast's maximum is relatively generous compared to Time Warner, which is experimenting with caps as low as 5GB a month. Cox, meanwhile, has said it will prioritize certain traffic it deems "time-sensitive" -- which doesn't include peer-to-peer traffic.
Telcos and cable companies like to brag about their speed boosts, but they have more work to do. They also must ensure enough capacity -- at a reasonable price -- for people to download videos, make VoIP calls and engage in other bandwidth-intensive activity without straining the system.