Broadband Blowout

Robert X. Cringely, the pseudonymous writer who pens a column for PBS Online, said last week that broadband was dead. I found myself bristling until I read the essay, which was very reasonable and highly depressing. His main point: companies are going out of business selling service that delivers more than they can afford to offer at the price point they offer it at. Broadband was sold on the notion that we'd get teevee over the Internet; instead, most people want (and all they really get and all that's really available) is faster Web page downloads.
This week, he addressed readers who expressed dismay and rejected his premises. My only quibble is that he writes in this week's essay:
The answer has to do with both proximity and reality. In order to qualify for that 1.1 megabit DSL line, you have to be quite near to the telephone company central office. DSL bandwidth drops off with distance, while T1 bandwidth does not.
That's not quite the full explanation. You can push 8 Mbps or higher over DSL at distances that can range several thousand feet or further from a central office. But DSL service doesn't come with a quality and throughput guarantee. T1 is sold as a business-grade service almost always. It can run for miles, depending on the equipment available along the way. It's a dedicated and guaranteed speed, along with the kinds of things business needs: 24 x 7 service, response, etc. Whether the phone companies actually provide that successfully is separate from the fact that it's offered. (My experience with T1s is that the phone company usually comes through very well, or catastrophically fails to respond well at all. Hardly any middling response.)
T1 bandwidth doesn't drop off with distance because you can either condition a line for T1 and have it work or not. You can't ratchet it up or down. Most T1 service these days uses a DSL style system and has for several years. This encoding system, HDSL, made it possible to deliver 1.544 Mbps over four wires (two copper pairs) instead of 25 pairs (24 x 64 = 1.536 Mbps plus a control circuit). T1s typically have a more robust central office equipment presence, while DSL circuits are almost always handled in aggregation with multiple circuits on a single DSLAM (DSL aggregator/multiplexor) card.
As far as I understand it, and I may be wrong, there's nothing better or worse about using ADSL or SDSL or any other DSL flavor when it's plugged in to enough bandwidth on the other end versus using a T1 circuit. You should still get the same amount throughput, packet success, and other measures that define a working circuit. It's all about the upstream, as Cringely very astutely points out.