Information Warfare: Low Bandwidth Sites For Sailors


August 17, 2006: Companies that sell to sailors have learned to create special web sites for customers connecting from ships at sea. It's all about bandwidth, or lack of it, in the U.S. Navy.
Over the last five years, the U.S. Navy has finished equipping all of its ships with Internet access for the crews. As a result, the average carrier battle group, and its 8,000 or so sailors, now send and receive over a thousand emails an hour. Sailors can also surf the net, and conduct business online (like buying stuff.) But the seagoing Internet connection is via a satellite link, and does not provide a lot of bandwidth. Most of the bandwidth is devoted to official use, with only a small portion permanently allocated for use by the crew for personal use. Thus, while email gets in and out pretty quickly, going shopping can be a tedious experience, because the large product images used by many shopping sites take forever to load. While you can often turn off the loading of image files, that often makes it difficult to figure out what you are buying.
Sites that specialize in sales to sailors at sea have recognized the problem, and created "low bandwidth" versions of their sites. For example, the U.S. Navy Exchange Service Command sells uniforms for sailors. They created a low bandwidth site, which uses low res images, or no image files at all, if possible, to make the site quick to access by sailors at sea. This also increases sales, which makes it all worthwhile for whoever's in charge of the budget.


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