Quick Take — WSJ: “The Truth about Faster Internet. It’s Not Worth It”

David Fields
Aug 21, 2019 · 3 min read

Transparency Builds Trust — Opacity Kills It

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Source: WSJ, The Truth about Faster Internet: It’s Not Worth It

The Wall Street Journal ran a front page article on a topic important to all of us: How Much Speed Do You Really Need? The average consumer today is spending $67/month for broadband internet alone. More than 60% of consumers have packages of over 100 Mbps, often paying even more. The Key Question: Is it really worth it? The Journal’s answer is a resounding no and it really isn’t close. As the graph above shows the average bandwidth for a Netflix HD stream is nearly identical across all packages — 3.5 Mbps. Those brief spikes at the beginning of the stream are just the first chunk of the video loading and loading times varied by less than 1 sec regardless of package. What about simultaneous streams? For the users in their study “with speeds 100 Mbps or higher who had seven streams going, (they) used only about 7.1 Mbps of capacity, on average”. 7.1 Mbps TOTAL for SEVEN streams.

At Wander, we believe that consumers should get all speed they need for streaming, gaming, the connected home and more. And they deserve to have full transparency into why they only need 50 Mbps, which is what we’re offering to consumers with Wander.

My (DF) take on some of the article’s most important key takeaways:

  1. “Some 61% of U.S. households had speeds of 100 Mbps or higher as of December 2018" — DF: This is because many markets have 100 Mbps as the lowest package offered, including LA. Large ISPs use higher bandwidth packages to justify higher prices.
  2. “Representatives for major broadband providers Comcast, Charter, AT&T, Verizon, Altice and Cox said in separate statements that consumers are demanding fast internet speeds to support the many devices in their households, from security cameras to smart appliances, and activities such as ultrahigh definition (4K) streaming, online gaming and telecommuting.” DF: As the WSJ article goes on to say (emphasis mine): “Internet traffic from gaming and other sources like web cameras didn’t significantly increase bandwidth usage”. Devices like Nest cams in our testing use around 0.3 / Mbps or less than a tenth of a Netflix HD stream. Streaming video is the highest bandwidth usage of any consumer use case. 4K does require higher bandwidth but in our testing that climbs to 15 / Mbps vs. 3.5 / Mbps for HD. Still well below these high bandwidth packages.
  3. “A Netflix Inc. spokeswoman said the company aims to deliver quality video with the least possible bandwidth.” DF: Fortunately, the streaming players are working hard on the other side to make their streams as efficient as possible. ESPECIALLY, in a Net Neutrality repeal world, where the ISPs can prioritize their own content over third parties like Netflix and Amazon.
  4. “Broadband-industry experts said when consumers complain about service, the most cost-efficient action for call-center representatives is offering a faster package, even if that doesn’t solve the problem. That ‘makes the tech support call shorter,’ Mr. Feamster said, ‘and it helps the internet service provider sell faster service.’” DF: WOW. ISPs have every incentive to convince consumers they need more speed than they do — helps them justify higher and higher prices. At Wander, we see things differently and want to bring transparency to an industry that has been built on opacity.


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