Broadband is not just a luxury, it's a necessity, according to a new report by In-Stat. Users from six different "lifestyle" groups in both the US and Canada were surveyed, and all six segments rated broadband "the communication service they can least live without."
The survey, which was conducted of 1,000 multi-person households split between the US and Canada, found that there is great diversity among homes with broadband in North America—much more than typically thought, according to In-Stat analyst Keith Nissen. "Interests, activities, adoption of new technology and decision making behavior are very different" between households, he told, but they all influenced the decision to use broadband at home. While it may be easy to assume that broadband is preferred most among a younger, more tech-savvy generation, older adults have unique interests and more disposable income than young households. My grandmother may not need to research the latest graphics card, but she reports that she absolutely requires broadband in order to play bridge with her friends online. Nissen says that the fact that broadband is the most valued home service among a diverse population proves that "technology adoption and attitudes can change rather rapidly, and are independent of age, income, education."
Additionally, the survey found that a great majority of broadband households in North America—72 percent—already had some sort of cable service. "Leading edge adopters of technology are rapidly becoming cable triple play customers" said Nissen, adding that those customers are going to be difficult to entice away by telcos and IPTV adoption will be slow as a result—that is, until telecoms convince customers that their broadband service is the best. Even more of those surveyed—85 percent—reportedly favor "quadruple play" service, which would provide television, voice, broadband, and wireless phone service to households. With broadband being considered an absolute necessity and over three-quarters of respondents indicating that they want to subscribe to quadruple play service, providers who are already clamoring to add triple play customers wouldn't mind throwing in another money-maker to the collection. "[Broadband] is the key to success in next-generation telecom markets," Nissen said.
To almost anyone, these findings are probably obvious. For many consumers, broadband is quickly becoming a utility, not a luxury. When moving into my most recent apartment, I had broadband days before I could take a warm shower.
What would happen if broadband was actually considered a utility by the government, though? Would it become regulated, and how would that affect customers? On one hand, most utilities such as water, gas, and electricity are services that are required for people's day-to-day living, and while some of us may try to argue otherwise, we can live without broadband. However, another service that we don't necessarily need to live is the telephone. Telephone service was once considered a utility that is still subject to government regulation in most states. If phone service was so ubiquitous that it fell under government regulation as a utility, couldn't broadband eventually get to that point as well?
Proponents of broadband regulation argue that broadband as a utility would mean the government would work to ensure that access reaches everywhere, including rural areas that would otherwise not get broadband access due to the low ROI in implementing it there. Opponents to broadband regulation fear that the costs of installing it in these sparsely-populated areas will just be passed onto customers in metropolitan areas in the form of hidden fees—"However they can legally recoup it, they will," one broadband user said.