Stewart Alsop’s current column in Fortune details his back and forth with broadband access to the home. Although he started as a fan of DSL, he’s moving over to the cable camp.

I have to say I’m not convinced and in fact, think cable creates a bad dynamic for the future development of the Internet. I’m just not a fan of assymetric broadband access. Cable tends to have significantly more downstream (to the home) bandwidth than upstream and performance for most day-to-day applications (i.e., web surfing) certainly is better on cable. But this assymetry creates a dynamic that discourages the development of applications that serve content back to the web — in fact, most cable ISPs prevent their customers from operating web servers on their home networks.

By limiting the back channel, broadband over cable has the potential to push the Internet more and more towards becoming a one way medium. Such a thing happened 80 years ago with radio. While it’s unlikely that history will repeat itself, we need to push for symmetric broadband networks. Only that way can we keep building the Internet into a medium in which every consumer can also be a producer.


Interesting perspective and as always a good column by Stewart Alsop, though I disagree with the in general nature of the perspective here. While I do agree that an asymmetrical connection makes it potentially more difficult to have a two way medium it is far from reality today. Just look at the blog community. Does it get more two-way? Any resourceful consumer can easily (yes easily) set up a server at home for both local and remote use. Almost all home connectivity options are asymmetrical as well… DSL, Cable and Satellite are, though dial-up is not… no perhaps we should all stay with that as our option?? I don’t think so.

I think that the majority of what people do by nature is view and receive information rather than produce it and since we are talking about mass markets (was that not clear) we need to talk about what most people want. Email is two-way, sharing photos is two way…blogging… two-way! all easily done on almost any kind of connection.

For me, Cable is the way to go. It is extremely fast, costs less and is amazingly reliable and very easy to set up. I would love more upstream speed, but even for the limited serving I do (including streaming music to myself remotely) it all works just fine.

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