About nineteen months ago, I set up my first wireless router at home, and I remember at the time that there were only one or two other publicly broadcasted SSIDs in the general vicinity of my apartment. Today, there are at least eight or so wireless networks within range of my laptop, suggesting that broadband, in my building or in my immediately neighboring buildings anyway, has reached a significant level of pervasiveness.
One unwelcome consequence of this is that my home broadband access has gotten noticeably slower over the past six months, almost to the point of frustration. It takes two or three seconds of blank responsiveness from my browser before a page will suddenly load, a clear sign of saturated bandwidth. I was hoping that, by upgrading to an 802.11g router as I did earlier this week, I would see some performance gain — not a realistic presumption, I know, because most of the speed increase in wireless-g hardware benefits intra-network activity. Still, I hoped, but as is to be expected, no favorable results.
I never paid much attention to warnings that the performance of cable broadband pipes, by virtue of the fact that they are community shared, inevitably degrade with increased patronage. Naturally, I assign more credence to that claim now, but I think it’s also attributable to a predictable tendency to outgrow bandwidth, regardless of how much speed you have. Given 5 Mbps downstream (I’ve been at that speed for roughly five years now), before too long I’ll need 8 Mbps. And if you give me eight, I’m sure I’ll find a way to max it out before the current (and last!) Bush presidency comes to a merciful end. You can never have too much bandwidth, so to speak. It’s a natural human behavior — or, at least, a natural consumer behavior.