Ten Uses for National Broadband

As the FCC develops plans for rolling out national broadband — 100 Mbps access for at least one third of the nation — we started thinking about how we could make use of it.

1. Real-time access to medical records

Let’s say 100 Mbps access becomes ubiquitous. And, let’s say health care becomes commonplace even for those who are out of work or self-employed. With the more prevalent access, it’s easy to envision a day when your health records are easy to access from anywhere, even on your smartphone. And, when you visit the doctor, with this pervasive kind of access available, you could visit the doctor and then see the results of a blood test or read through a diagnosis on your smartphone.

2. No more over-the-air television

100 Mbps access is fast enough to download an episode of Lost in about 30 seconds. With that speed, there’s not a good reason why over-the-air broadcasts would even be necessarily any more, given the on-demand nature of fast downloads. Widespread national broadband would negate the need for most over-the-air broadcasts, including digital television and even FM radio stations.

3. Vehicle downloads

If the FCC establishes a 100Mps wired and wireless infrastructure for every US citizen, the next inevitable conclusion is that cars would become better equipped to access this rich bandwidth as well. The Chrysler Grand Caravan already uses a service called UConnect Web for accessing 3G cellular networks for the Internet, which you can share in the car. The upcoming Ford Edge uses the MyTouch service that lets you plug in a USB WWAN card to access the Web as well. The next step: cars would be equipped to access the fast national broadband as well for TV, radio, and in-car downloads.

4. More realistic, location-based gaming

If every neighbor on your block has a fast broadband connection, location-based gaming could become more common. The idea is more than just “everyone in Philadelphia forms a clan” but allows gamers to find people in their local area – say, one high school competing against another. And, with faster access, latency becomes a non-issue for more realistic multiplayer matches. Your movements will be mapped faster into the game, and one low-speed connection won’t spoil the fun.

5. Say goodbye to physical libraries

Once every citizen is connected to the Internet, and e-readers become as common as real books, the public library will change dramatically — it will not be a physical building, but instead a warehouse for e-books you can check out. Of course, with the Epub format, this is already becoming a reality. But the need for a physical library will lessen when cities know that every resident has access.

6. The cloud becomes a reality

Cloud computing is gaining traction, but for many it is just a concept. With pervasive connections into the cloud, a new vision might emerge – one where most companies and home users are connected to a remote data center in major cities, acting as a “fifth utility” to coincide with power, gas, phone, and water. In this model, all data — and apps — would live in the cloud.

7. Widespread power management

Microsoft Hohm and Google PowerMeter are examples of what can happen when the Internet connects to the power grid. When every house in a city has extremely fast access, there may even be more possibilities. For example, green initiatives in a city could put one county against another in an effort to conserve power. Each house would be connected to the grid and to high-speed Internet so that you can pull up a chart that shows who is using the most power (on a voluntary basis, of course).

8. The videophone becomes standard

Since broadband is still not available for everyone, the videophone is still a distant dream. Sure, you can use Skype for video chat – but no companies have made a major splash with a hardware device that lets you make video calls. If everyone you know has broadband, you could dial any number and expect the other party to have fast enough Internet to talk over video. This could also lead to videophone standards so that you can video phones from different manufacturers are compatible.

9. DNA sequencing predicts your path

DNA sequencing is not new – companies such as 23andMe have offered it for years. You can submit your DNA to find out if you are susceptible to heart disease and other ailments. With widespread broadband, your DNA charts and predictions could be just a click away – and you could compare the results with everyone else in your family or against people with similar ancestry. Also, high-speed at a national level would mean everyone could keep a DNA back-up on the Web as well.

10. The vook replaces the book

A vook, or video book, is a book with rich content – videos and music that add to the experience. A great idea that requires a high-speed connection and a large user base, vooks have never really become commonplace — at least, not yet. If every US citizen has fast Internet, a vook could become a common way of reading and consuming information and enrich the reading experience.

Editors' Recommendations