Building toward the fastest broadband possible.

CED's Brian SantoEvery year, we all get treated to a country-by-country breakdown of average broadband speeds. In recent years, several traditional economic powerhouses find themselves somewhere down in the middle of the rankings.

This is a group of countries used to being leaders, so lagging in any way tends to chafe. Several of these countries, including Australia, England and the U.S., are engaged in programs of varying ambition to encourage the build-out of infrastructure to bring ever-faster broadband to more citizens.

Now comes the backlash. Several reports have been compiled recently that question the value of investing in the fastest broadband networks possible. The result is headlines like this one from Forbes: High-speed broadband doesn't matter a darn.

The author’s arguments are: 1) Only a small percentage of people are subscribing to the highest broadband speeds today, so who needs it? And: 2) 4G wireless will do the trick, and if not, 5G is coming.

Lack of a market for what today is an over-priced product fails to account for what will happen with the inevitable reduction of network costs, and then fees. And the idea that even the theoretical 5G will provide adequate capacity for everyone is snake oil that no one is selling anymore.

Remember when technologists used to make predictions such as: People will never need X megabytes of memory, or X MIPS of processing power, or X Mbps of broadband? You want to know why no one has made a prediction like that in years? Because after those prognosticators were proven dead wrong, no one is fool enough to predict that no one else will ever figure out a fruitful way to use a resource once it becomes available and affordable.

I’m not aware of an instance where the new availability of an affordable and plentiful resource has not resulted in innovation, and the frequent result of innovation is the creation of multibillion-dollar industries.

Where the money comes from? Technology push or pull? Tough questions with no easy answers, it’s true. But let’s work them out as we keep building toward the fastest broadband possible. One way or another, the endeavor will prove worth it.