In the US, fixed-line broadband has reached the heady heights of 50Mbps (megabits per second) downloads and 5Mbps uploads.
Provider Verizon has rolled out this superfast service in the 17 states it covers. The fibre-optic network on which it's built cost somewhere in the region of $22.9bn – an infrastructure that doesn't exist in the UK.
However, NTL has been working on the provision of 50Mbps broadband access, although it hasn't revealed any details of when we might be able to sign up. NTL says it has no plans to expand its cable network and, along with other ADSL-based ISPs, is instead combining the speed of its broadband along with TV and telephony packages.
If you're lucky, you may already enjoy a connection approaching current promises of 'up to 8Mbps' broadband. And if you're luckier still, you may be able to enjoy a 24Mbps connection. ISP Be (bought by 02 in June 2006) started rolling out such a service in late 2005 and now has its ADSL2+ equipment in 420 of the country's 5,500 or so exchanges.
But many people might wonder why anyone would need such high-speed broadband, when their 2Mbps connections currently provide enough bandwidth to fulfil their needs. Well, over the next few years, the content you're likely to want to access will demand faster connections.
For example, BT started offering its BT Vision IPTV (TV programming delivered via broadband) service and accompanying V-box – a 160GB hard-disk recorder – in December. It provides television content on demand and its 40-odd channels cover films, music, children's TV and sport, the most significant of which is likely to be the provision of live Premiership football matches from next season.
On top of BT's offering, Channel 4 has started making programmes available on-demand. The BBC plans to do the same in 2007. Using today's connections, many programmes take half as long to download as they do to watch – completely defeating the object of on-demand entertainment.
And with movies on demand from the likes of iTunes a real possibility in the UK in the not-too-distant future, something clearly has to be done to decrease the amount of time between when you pay for the movie,and when you start watching it.
Otherwise, you'd be better off driving to Blockbusters after all.