Buying the fastest
ISPs were laser-focused on delivering the fastest download speeds because that’s what consumers were demanding, according to Jason Livingood. “We had many customers back then, in those first few years of broadband, tell us that they chose the neighbourhood that they’d live in based upon whether or not they could get our service, whether they could get broadband,” he said.
That meant that many of the other factors that can impact the quality and reliability of a broadband connection were pushed to one side. “The difference between, say, having 100Mbits/sec and 1.5Mbits/ sec is just so tremendous that it overshadows all of those other potential metrics or QE variables,” said Livingood. “For many years, there was such a high return on delivering more [download] capacity that some of those other things mattered a lot less.”
Livingood cites the example of DNS lookup times. “The quality of experience improvement that you’d get for moving to, say, 10Mbits/sec up to 100Mbits/sec or 500Mbits/sec or a gig was tremendous compared to a DNS query response time. You might be talking about a few milliseconds one way or the other, and that isn’t really that noticeable to the end user.”
Sam Crawford agrees that the number one priority for customers in those early days of broadband was getting faster download speeds. “Speed was a very easy thing to quantify because people remembered how bad it was before, so why wouldn’t you want it even faster again?”
Home-buying decisions were based on broadband
However, once speeds reached a certain point, other factors became more important to the user experience, even if most consumers didn’t know what those factors were. “Latency becomes a dominating factor after a certain point,” said Sam. “It wouldn’t have made a difference whether you were on a 10Mbits/sec connection or a 100Mbits/sec connection, eBay would load at the same speed on average.”