Consumer Broadband Is The Workforce Technology Of The Decade

That call may surprise you. You might have put storage or Gigabit ethernet or the Internet itself at the top of the list. But when I think about what's different in the life of your average information worker as the decade comes to a close, it's the instant-on access to just about everything that the adoption of consumer broadband has fueled.

From our Consumer Technographics(r) survey of over 50,000 consumers every year for the last 12 years, between 2000 and 2009, consumer broadband soared from 2% to 63% of US households. For context, home PC adoption grew from 51% to 77%.

But why is consumer broadband the workforce technology of the decade? Three main reasons:

1. Telecommuting has become a way of life for xx million information workers. We have been watching -- and forecasting -- the growth of telecommuting. The impact is immediate and obvious: more hours to work; more location flexibility in hiring and retaining; and more work-life control. Telecommuting in the US is dependent on cheap broadband to the home. Telecommuters will rise to include 43% of the US information workforce by 2016.

2. Broadband-enabled markets have triggered massive IT innovation. Google; Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia, and LinkedIn; WebEx, ZoHo, and; Amazon EC2, Google App Engine; and Windows Azure; open source and Web 2.0. All of these and thousands of other technologies and companies are built on the back of broadband to the home. The network innovation over the last 10 years makes the Internet 1.0 era look like a pre-season warmup game.

3. Consumers master new technologies at home -- and expect the same at work. This is the big one. Technology Populism -- the rise of technology-enabled employees -- is in full swing as empowered employees bring their own smartphones to work; use LinkedIn to prospect their customers; tap PBWorks or to collaborate across corporate boundaries; and borrow the YouTube strategy to put training videos into employees' hands. Today, according to our most recent survey of empowered employees, almost half of US employees feel that the technology they have at home is better than what they have at work.

So what does the rise of consumer broadband mean for collaboration professionals?


  • What it means (WIM) #1: Expect more and better broadband to the home. This is a duh, but in any workforce techonlogy planning scenario, be sure to factor in more (75% of US homes by 2013) and faster broadband. Fiber to the home, curb, or cable POP will fuel the speed. Be prepared to harness it.
  • WIM #2: Plan on a full suite of collaboration tools to support telework. Teleweorkers are twice as likely as desktop- boudn employees to use every collaboration tool. Duh. Be sure to deal with the network access issues that home workers will face. Best practice is to treat every employee as if they are coming in over the Internet.
  • WIM #3: Make telework the centerpiece of your desktop video conferencing strategy. Desktop video conferencing is a killer application for the next decade. The seeds are planted with Skype, Google Talk, Webcams, and the collaboration toolkit strategies of Cisco, Microsoft, IBM, and Google. Be sure to put remote access and telework as the center of any solution. In other words, expect faulty networks, open networks, and random quality end points.


My last comment is to ask you to comment on two questios:


  1. Why is consumer broadband cheaper in towns with only one broadband provider?
  2. Why is business broadband is so much more expensive than consumer broadband?


Comment away. Oh, and happy happy new year!


So when will...

So when will the providers realize that 256KB UPLOAD isn't going to cut it? They all give us great download speeds, assuming that we all download lots of music and videos. But, as the workforce moves back home, the need to upload is increasingly important. And, on top of that, as web-based backups surge in popularity, that's another big upload need.

I have yet to encounter a broadband provider who gives more than lip service to my upload needs (okay, I am a web developer, so shoot me). To get as little as 512KB, I have to fork out a major bundle of cash while my download needs are far more than satisfied. Even at that speed, my limited backups take an hour.

Only the beginning

This article is dead on. However, it is locked in the past. Until now broad band has enabled workers to link their computers to the internet at high speed but the main compute resource has remained at the client side.

Over the next decade or so this emphasis will shift so that as broadband speeds increase more and more compute power will be on the server side. We will see true virtual working rather than distributed working. As I discussed here the end result will be that clients do not even need to perform video rendering but will be little more than interactive screens connected to compute clouds.

The impact of this on the way people think about what work is and how virtual working will function with instant, high definition 2.5D video conferencing and surround sound for dirt cheep prices is beyond imagination.

- AJ

re: Consumer Broadband Is The Workforce Technology Of The Decad

Counterintuitive -- but smack on, Ted.I think the rise of notebook PCs was pretty important, too, but I guess they were pretty well established by the end of the 90s.For the next decade, it will be mobile smart phones.