Thursday New Tools Feature: Now Streaming -- "Change" (Buffering...)

Add one more to the list of firsts from Tuesday's Inauguration -- the event set a new all-time high for internet traffic in the U.S., according to an article in today's New York Times. From the article, "Online Video of Inauguration Sets Records":

Internet traffic in the United States hit a record peak at the start of President Obama’s speech as people watched, read about and commented on the inauguration, according to Bill Woodcock, the research director at the Packet Clearing House, a nonprofit organization that analyzes online traffic. The figures surpassed even the high figures on the day President Obama was elected.

“The peak is the highest measured to date, and it appears to be mostly a U.S. phenomenon,” Mr. Woodcock said, adding that it did not appear that global records would be set.

...CNN said it provided more than 21.3 million video streams over a nine-hour span up to midafternoon. That blew past the 5.3 million streams provided during all of Election Day.

In total, a whopping 60% of Americans watched or listened to the event live, and another 20% either saw or read reports of it that day. From a Gallup report today:

The live audience included 70% of nonworking Americans, but also 53% of those currently employed -- suggesting that many workers either took the day off or had the opportunity to watch or hear the ceremonies at work.

Americans were clearly more interested in the inauguration of Barack Obama than they were in George W. Bush's second inauguration four years ago. In 2005, only 40% of Americans said they watched or heard the inaugural ceremonies live.

These record-breaking internet numbers match the record-breaking crowds Obama drew here in DC this week, and are an appropriate marker for the start of the first 21st century presidency.

The news is not all good, however. Many people experienced problems when attempting to watch the proceedings online:

The viewing troubles may have been more a result of the limited Internet capacity coming to offices and houses, rather than a lack of overall bandwidth from the media companies, according to Mr. Woodcock. The United States continues to suffer from less-than-robust bandwidth, which Mr. Woodcock attributes to inadequate government attention and limited competition between Internet service providers like AT&T and Comcast. President Obama, in fact, mentioned the issue in the very speech that people were trying to watch.

Luckily, President Obama seems to recognize the importance of expanding our internet infrastructure so that all of America can join in, and not just those of us that can afford expensive computer equipment and a broadband subscription. Currently, the United States is 19th in the world in broadband penetration, right behind Estonia. The stimulus package currently contains $6 billion to increase access to broadband internet, which will go a long way towards ensuring that more Americans enjoy the advantages of the digital revolution.