I've been forced to experience the full power of my Apple iPhone over the last week. The result of that experience makes me wish I could dump my cable/DSL broadband connection and just use my cell phone for all my Internet needs. At the very least, my iPhone--which could just as well be a BlackBerry, Nokia or Palm Treo --experience leads me to question whether IT managers should presume that remote workers must have a cable/DSL-based high-speed Internet access.
I put myself in the position of relying entirely on my iPhone through sloth. I'm in the process of moving and my cable service hasn't yet been established at the new place because I procrastinated in placing the order. Consequently I've been e-mailing, surfing and talking only from my iPhone for about a week. I have to say, I'm tempted to forego having cable service installed because I'm getting almost everything I want from the Web via my phone. I most definitely will not be ordering landline telephone service. For full business use, my phone is lacking only a normal size screen, keyboard and mouse. If I could dock my phone with desktop components designed for sustained use, or if I could use my cell as a modem I would be sorely tempted to heave my land-based Internet access overboard. My musings of a cable/DSL-less world are further fueled by the current economic turmoil.
Will a generation that has grown up with high-powered smartphones but is confronted with either unemployment or low-wage jobs make a choice between a smartphone with a healthy dose of data plan and cable/DSL-based broadband Internet access? Can employers really assume that all workers will make the choice to put in a high-speed cable or DSL connection? In reality, the answers to these questions are "probably not" and "probably yes." It only takes a couple people living in the same apartment to share the high-speed access cost to make the monthly payment seem reasonable. And employers that need workers to remotely access business systems are probably not in the lowest-wage industries.
With that said, the one thing that is keeping me on the cable/DSL grid is entertainment; specifically Netflix. I am completely addicted to the "watch instantly" feature that allows me to view a movie on-demand. I took the unusual (I think) step of ordering the broadband service without an accompanying television subscription. I refuse to pay for commercial-ridden, low-quality entertainment and news to be piped into my house. I'm hoping that Hulu will be coming to my Roku box sooner than later. And I hope that the other major networks start to provide a similar service. In the meantime, I will be paying for an Internet connection that I also use for work purposes, mainly to process e-mail and to facilitate remote access to my test equipment in eWEEK Labs.
However, if my cell phone gets any closer to serving up a high-speed Internet access experience, I may just decide to ditch my cable or DSL service and go 100 percent cellular. The ever-increasing numbers of wireless hotspots that provide the high-speed connection that I crave are popping up all over the place. More than once while riding in my carpool to work I've piggybacked (if only for a couple of minutes) off the free Wi-Fi service offered by an AC Transit bus (Alameda County offers free Wi-Fi on transbay buses running between Oakland, where I live, and San Francisco, where I work). Even if my cell phone Internet connection doesn't yet fully provide a high-speed connection comparable to a broadband connection, cable or DSL service seems greatly diminished in my eyes as a requirement of business users that work outside the traditional office.