My name’s Jim, and, like many of you, I’m an addict. I’m addicted to broadband.

Comcast gave me my first high-speed taste. I got hooked and started paying too much for being always-on. But that was OK, I told myself, I was only doing it at home; when I went to my second home or out on the road, I kept my old-time telephone connection and dialed up to AOL or whatever other low-band connection was available.

Then I put in a home Wi-Fi connection. It was only a little thing, I said, something so my wife could access the Internet on her computer. But then I got a Wi-Fi-equipped laptop, and I carrying broadband around the house so I always had it by my side.

The laptop made things worse outside the home, too, when I discovered hotspots, broadband crack houses disguised as coffee shops and bookstores and airports … lots of places I might go for something else, but now I could roll up the old laptop and get a broadband fix. Running on coffee But that was OK, I thought. It wasn’t like I was running out to Starbucks to get broadband; I didn’t even like Starbucks coffee. And my resort house couldn’t get broadband, so it was still a safe haven where I could detox. Then Verizon offered me a deal I couldn’t refuse: a little less speed for a lot less money than Comcast. Like crack instead of cocaine. Of course, I bought another Wi-Fi device, even though the house is only slightly larger than a lawn shed, so I don’t ever have to be without broadband.

Even as I was slowly sinking into this debilitating habit, I saw other people who, I knew, were out of control. I silently mocked them as they jiggled the dials on their Palms and BlackBerries looking for e-mail and Web sites. My phone was a phone.

Now something’s happened, and I know I need help. I got a BlackBerry phone to interface with my car’s hands-free Bluetooth system. The salesman convinced me to add broadband, and I smugly agreed, telling myself I’d probably only use it when I traveled or to show off for less privileged family members.

It didn’t happen. I can’t help myself. I sit in restaurants checking e-mail and the weather and the latest sports scores. I attend school programs and put the device on buzz so no one else hears when emails come with the latest press releases. I carry the phone with me into my family room and check e-mail during TV commercials. I know in my mind it’s not really high-speed like that first modem, that its watered down and weak, but it’s so easy to use, and always there. Untethered and loving it I’m addicted and confused. I’m no daredevil; freedom makes me agoraphobic. Wires comfort and tether me. But here I am, in my car, in my house, in my yard, on the golf course, for crying out loud, always on broadband through some invisible wireless connection.

I’m addicted, and I’m afraid. What happens when the pushers unwrap femtocells or dual-mode phones or WiMAX this year? Will I plunge deeper into this disease? It’s something I’ll learn – as will we all – as 2008 continues and broadband emerges from the homes and the alleys and the coffee shops into the light of the day.

Heaven help me, I can’t wait.

Jim Barthold is a contributor to Communications Technology. Reach him at

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