Of all the technological innovations that have shaped modern life, those built on speed have often proved to be the most influential. The journey from the steam locomotive to the first commercial jet aircraft took nearly 150 years, a span bridged by the invention of the internal combustion engine. Each step along the way accelerated the efficient, economical movement of people and goods.
But ranking with these remarkable achievements is the internet’s power to instantaneously transfer massive amounts of data around the globe. Since 1983, when a basic computer modem transmitted data over conventional phone lines, average internet bandwidth has grown by 50 percent a year, according to Nielsen Norman Group, a research and consulting organization.
Bandwidth growth shows no signs of slowing. By 2023, fixed-broadband connections are expected to deliver an average 141.8 megabits per second in North America, up from 56.6 Mbps in 2018, according to the latest Cisco Annual Internet Report. Likewise, while not meeting the speed of fixed broadband, average mobile and Wi-Fi connection speeds are expected to show similar advances by 2023. At the fastest end of the spectrum, however, many internet service providers (ISPs) are supplying broadband connections at a lightning-fast 1,000 Mbps, or one gigabit per second.
This exponential widening of the information highway has revolutionized the way people communicate, receive news, conduct research, buy goods, invest, listen to music and watch video content.
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