American broadband connections are coming of age. If you think the Internet is ubiquitous now, you just ain't seen nothin' yet.

Back in 1996, I had to slog it over to my university's computer labs in order to connect to the Internet. I'm told that the entire campus shared a single dial-up connection at the time, capable of 56 kilobits per second, so massive lag was a simple fact of life. But hardly anybody else used the 'net anyway, so I was still able to do my research, play some games, and meet my future wife online. Even us early adopters had hardly even heard of broadband connections.

What's new in cyberspace?
A fresh report from Entropy Economics shows that those days are long gone and soon forgotten. Over the past decade, the average Internet connection has moved from a simple 28.8 kbps dial-up modem to cable modems, DSL connections, and even wireless broadband plans with an average 2.4 megabits per second of torrential bandwidth. That's nearly 100 times faster in just 10 years.

My own 20 mbps connection through Verizon (NYSE:VZ) and its FiOS fiber-optic network puts me another order of magnitude ahead of the pack (yep, still an early adopter). I couldn't fathom doing my work over a snail's-pace modem connection anymore. Five million broadband subscribers in the year 2000 had ballooned into 80 million by the end of 2008. And the growth curve is still rising exponentially.

Entropy points out that an ever-growing number of consumer devices now practically beg for broadband connectivity. Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhones without a 3G connection would just be glorified iPod media players. The Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) Kindle has reinvented digital books, thanks to an always-on high-speed network connection. I like to watch Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) YouTube videos in my living room through my gaming console's Wi-Fi connection.

The investing lessons learned
A hyperconnected nation -- and world -- creates entirely new business models. Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) saw this coming years ago and started building an online feature film delivery system. Early out of the gate, the company stands a good chance of capturing a significant market share that may stay loyal when the inevitable flood of entertainment streamers comes rushing in.

It's also obviously good for network equipment sellers. Market leader Cisco Systems (NASDAQ:CSCO) is one of the biggest cash machines anywhere, and it looks like its markets will continue to grow for many years yet.

We've come a long way from dial-up, baby. Just prepare to be blown away by the next 10 years.

Further hyperconnected Foolishness:

Google is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers selection. Apple,, and Netflix are Motley Fool Stock Advisor picks. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days.

Fool contributor Anders Bylund owns shares in Google and Netflix, but holds no other position in any of the companies discussed here. He just celebrated his 12th wedding anniversary, and would never have met his wife without that clunky old computer lab. You can check out Anders' holdings or a bio if you like. The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.