Nonetheless, U.S. small businesses were expected to spend more than $9.6 billion for Web-related products and services in 1999, with the projection growing to more than $13 billion in 2000, according to the study.
Whats holding small businesses back? Among other factors, speed and cost. As Internet applications and e-commerce become more sophisticated, broad, built-in computer modems transmitting information over regular phone lines simply dont cut it anymore when it comes to downloading files and graphics. A 56-kbps analog modem takes roughly 29 seconds to download a text-heavy page and as much as 243 seconds for a graphics-heavy page, according to the March 1999 issue of PC World magazine.
Until recently, options were few and usually cost-prohibitive for small businesses. While a T-1 line, once the industry standard for high-speed Internet access, downloaded the text-heavy page in about three seconds and the graphics-heavy page in roughly 18 seconds, it did so at a very high price.
But as high-technology rapidly evolves into faster and cheaper products, so does Internet access. Among the fastest and cheapest for small businesses is broadband.
Broadband stems from the term bandwidth, a range of frequencies that can be transmitted over a particular data transmission channel within a network. The more bandwidth the channel has, the faster the data travels. Broadband offers a high-bandwidth channel which, when used to access the Internet, provides speeds previously available to only the largest companies.
The text-heavy page would take about two seconds to download over a broadband cable connection to the Internet, four seconds for a graphics-heavy page, according to PC World. And its much cheaper than other options.
The widespread deployment of hybrid-fiber coaxial cable architecture (HFC) has brought the price of high-speed Internet access within the grasp of virtually any business. Businesses can access it via cable services similar to those hooked to residential television sets.
Broadband pricing structures also tend to be much lower than those for T-1 lines, while still offering a professional domain name, multiple e-mail accounts, scalable business solutions, technical support and ongoing monitoring and support of connections and other related equipment.
That same cable can provide companies access to video entertainment (cable television), which comes in handy if youre a bar or restaurant, hotel, health club, doctors office or automotive service center. Then theres DMX, or digital music service, which provides more than 100 channels of commercial-free music programming. And because broadband offers such broad bandwidth, it ultimately is expected to allow for the transmission of local telephone service to businesses.