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Broadband More Important Than HDTV

So says Pike & Fischer Broadband Advisory Services: 

Pike & Fischer asked some 280 executives, engineers, and consultants from the cable, phone, satellite TV, broadcast, and technology equipment industries of their opinions on the appeal of various services to customers. When asked to rank a number of “advanced communications services” on a scale of one to five (five being the highest), almost 40 percent of Pike & Fischer’s survey respondents gave high-speed data the highest rating. Comparatively, only about 25 percent ranked HDTV as high, and digital phone service was at the bottom of the list, with under 10 percent ranking it a five.

When you consider how slow our Internet access really is vs. the rest of the industrialized world, this isn’t very surprising. We really need faster broadband. 

UPDATE: This is interesting addendum to the above. Google and Microsoft (and others) have figured out how to deliver blazing-fast wireless Internet. The catch? It competes with spectrum allocated for digital TV: 

At the heart of the dilemma are so-called white spaces, the chunks of unused bandwidth layered between TV channels that are designed to keep broadcast signals from interfering with one another. These spaces will get even bigger on Feb. 17, 2009, the legally mandated day for TV broadcasts to go completely digital, freeing up more of the airwaves. (Digital signals take up less airwave space than their analog counterparts.)

Tech companies see huge opportunities in these radio-frequency buffer zones. The slices could allow computers, cell phones and other wireless devices to transfer gigabits of data per second (compared with Wi-Fi’s megabit-per-second speeds), thereby supporting mesh networks, broadband access in remote areas and wireless hot spots …

But broadcasters do not want to invest in a digital infrastructure only to have cellphone and Internet traffic infringe on their channels, essentially making digital TV no more reliable than the analog sets that depended on tinfoil-wrapped rabbit-ear antennas.

Ordinarily, I’d be inclined to say that technology will overcome, and we’ll be able to have our blazing-fast wireless broadband and our digital TV too. But the federal government and a powerfully entrenched interest are involved … so all bets are off.

[Hat tip: Matthew Yglesias.]