33 Million U.S. Homes Could Stream HD by 2012

Today’s average broadband speeds can stream only dramatically compressed high-def content.

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One of the practical arguments against streaming HDTV from the Internet is the narrowness of the pipes into most American homes. A study from Parks Associates says that a 10-megabit connection is needed to stream HD content and that only about 9 million U.S. homes would qualify this year.

But that number should leap to 33 million homes by 2012, says the report by Yuanzhe Cai at Parks.

For now, according to a report from In-Stat, the average download speed at U.S. homes is 3.8 Mbps. That connection is costing us an average of $38 a month.

According to Vudu, those average speeds should be enough to stream its HD movies. But to squeeze through the pipe, Vudu must be compressing the signal dramatically. What Vudu calls HD looks only marginally better than DVD quality on my 42-inch plasma set.

By the way, these numbers are for streaming, which means near-instant watching. Downloading high-quality HD for watching later is easier, depending on a viewer's patience.