Faster internet doesn't necessarily make users more productive, study says

Claims of productivity gains as a result of faster internet speeds are merely hype, according to researchers.

office man woman working
Credit: Thinkstock

If you didn't see gains in worker productivity the last time your organization subscribed to higher-speed internet from your ISP, don't worry, you're not alone.

No one does, there aren't any productivity gains, and in fact you're being fooled by the ISPs, some scientists claim.

'Incorrect notions'

"It's true that the faster something works, the more time the consumer will save," reads a paper authored by Bart de Langhe, an assistant professor of marketing at the University of Colorado, and Stefano Puntoni, a professor of marketing at Erasmus University in the Netherlands.

However "once a product is already fast, slight increases in its speed save proportionately less and less time," according to the report.

The paper was reported in the American Marketing Association's (AMA) Journal of Marketing Research.

Consumers usually have "incorrect notions about the effect of productivity increases on how much time they will save," the journal says.

Already productive

The reason is that, in most cases, employees are already productive and they're not going to get much more productive as a result of an internet speed boost, the scientists think.

And while it's true that moving from a slow internet connection to a fast internet connection would show productivity gains, moving from an already fast internet connection to a slightly faster one does not.

Willing to pay

Consumers are being bamboozled by the ISPs, the researchers say.

"Consumers are more willing to pay for an internet connection that is six seconds faster when the speed goes from ten seconds to four seconds than when the speed goes from sixteen seconds to ten seconds," the AMA uses as an example.

Metrics

The authors studied three products along with productivity metrics. They looked at printers, internet connections, and food processors.

Time metrics were involved in some cases, such as revolutions-per-minute in the case of the food processors.

The consumers got it wrong and "overestimated the benefits of productivity increases at high-productivity levels relative to the benefits of productivity increases at low-productivity levels," the AMA says in its article.

The printers

It was the same with printers; a printer that prints 50 pages per minute is probably not going to save you time over a printer that prints 20 pages per minute, the AMA report explained.

However, clearly either printer is faster than going to a print shop, waiting for the job to be completed, and driving back to the workplace again.

The gain is in buying the printer.

Ethics

And, now that the study has been completed, the ethical considerations involve whether consumers are misunderstanding them.

"We don't think that marketers have been willfully taking advantage of consumers in this regard," Puntoni and Langhe wrote in the report. "But given the results of our study, any decision to rely on such consumer misunderstanding now becomes an ethical one."

Downgrading?

And might there be a slight flaw in the argument?

Well, if you have indeed been subconsciously bamboozled by your ISP and your speeds are greater than your needs, suppose you then decide to downgrade. The scientists haven't figured in the time waste you'll spend trying to argue the point with the ISP.

And that's if you can even get to talk to the right person.

I think I'll stick with my fifty-megs and just be more careful next time.

This article is published as part of the IDG Contributor Network. Want to Join?

To comment on this article and other Network World content, visit our Facebook page or our Twitter stream.
Related:
Must read: Hidden Cause of Slow Internet and how to fix it
Notice to our Readers
We're now using social media to take your comments and feedback. Learn more about this here.