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Revised 12/4/2008

Broadband Library: Two Sides to Every Story: Summer 2008 (June)

Broadband Library is distributed quarterly to all members of the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers (SCTE). Beginning in early 2007, our column "Two Sides to Every Story" has used opposing pages to present contrasting viewpoints on a cable/telecom industry topic.

The Summer 2008 issue celebrates the 25th anniversary of Cable-Tec Expo, so we were asked to look back at the past 25 years. Our column debates how technology advances have made our lives both better and more difficult.

In Yesterdays' Technology Advances Make Our Lives Better Today, Dave describes the early days of Prodigy Services Company. In developing the business case for a consumer-focused online service, CBS—a content leader in many media—felt that "making information and pricing visible would increase competition and bring consumer prices down. CBS would receive advertising and transaction revenue from providers, making it possible to offer the service to consumers at a low price — the same model magazines had used for years." That required a distributed architecture with "intelligence everywhere." "Nearly all of what we take for granted today had its origins in that time. The cost of digital technologies is down to the point where most families can afford PCs and Internet access." He concludes "Our lives have been transformed ... the visions we had 25 years ago are here today ... there's no question that life is better as a result."

In Some Technologies Have Made Our Lives More Difficult, Sandy says "using new technologies isn't always beneficial." She shared "a few recollections of technologies I was working on in the early 1980s at AT&T and some of their unintended consequences. ... Touch-tone entry/voice response ..seemed like a good idea .. but how many times have you encountered a menu with 10 items to listen to but none that address what you need? ... E-mail works as intended, but has inadvertently given rise to spam, CYA e-mails and huge 'copy to' lists." Talking about "the threat to privacy" she said "Yet another example ... comes from systems recording data that track what sites users visit on the Internet. ... Technology is neither good nor evil. It is the applications of the technology that can have both positive and negative consequences."

Next: Our column in the Spring 2008 issue discusses recent moves by the cable industry toward tiered pricing after many years of selling broadband services at a flat monthly rate