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March 30, 1999

Inside Technology

Broadband - The Future of Technology

by Tracy Blair

As technology heads into the new millennia, the hot topic among cable, Internet and telephony industries seems to be "Broadband." This use of high-speed cable television lines is an ideal portal for continuous Internet connection. When connected with telephone service, the combination could make the individual services obsolete. This combination of cable television, Internet and telephone communication has already attracted the attention of the industry giants.

As discussed in a previous article, AT&T plans to merge with Time Warner cable in a joint venture that would allow long distance phone calls to travel over broadband cable lines. Already the use of video and teleconferencing via the Internet has shown an availability to a cost-effective form of telecommunications. But AT&T and Time Warner are not the only ones jumping on the broadband bandwagon.

On Monday, Snap.com unveiled its "Web Portal," combining audio and visual in a high- speed environment. The result is a quality that goes above and beyond today's standard Internet connection. Edmond Sanctis, chief operating officer of Snap.com says, "We wanted to begin to define a different experience."

NBC, one of the backers of Snap.com, is also keeping a close eye on breaking technology news with regard to broadband. President Bob Wright says, "NBC sees itself as a portal, probably the greatest of all portals. All of a sudden we have a huge role to play in the development of the Internet, and we are embracing that. It has become a pretty big part of our business." ABC, it seems, is also interested in broadband. Patricia Vance, Senior Vice President and General Manager of ABC.com says, "Even without a deep penetration of broadband into the home market, we still want to experiment."

Even Yahoo, a leader in the world of Internet services, is getting into the broadband melee. Yahoo is currently in talks to buy the online video company Broadcast.com. This merger would give Yahoo a jump into the popular world of video and entertainment, giving users yet another reason to need broadband or high-speed Internet connections. AtHome is purchasing Yahoo rival Excite, in a deal that will give its broadband cable Internet customers the media-rich video services.

SportsLine USA is considering an application that would e-mail personalized highlight video clips to customers. Tom Jessiman, Senior Vice President of Operations of SportsLine says, "I absolutely believe that with broadband there will be new companies built based on innovations that we aren't even thinking of right now." "Everybody has to prepare for the oncoming market of broadband," says Abhishek Gami, an analyst at William Blair and Co. in Chicago.

It certainly seems as if "everyone" is doing so. With the number of customers using broadband services growing rapidly, companies are beginning to experiment with the future of services as we know them. Connections and downloads that currently take hours of connection time are reduced to mere minutes or seconds with this high-speed access. The difference is a whole new world for users. The constant connection will change the way we use the Internet. Services and ideas previously tossed aside as too cumbersome for connections will become easily available. Three-dimensional aspects will take on ever-greater popularity.

According to Forrester Research, by the end of the year 2002, nearly a third of all homes will have some kind of high-speed or broadband Internet access. Television, movie, music and other entertainment industries will become bigger players in the on-line industry. Even games will improve from the broadband boost, allowing for graphics and speeds that were hindered by modem connections. We can expect that the overall appearance of the web as we know it today will be rapidly changing as broadband becomes a common word in the world of technology. Its applications for the way we use our cable, Internet and telephone will evolve into a service that will undoubtedly mark the next century as one of growth and imagination. One could say, broadband is definitely here to stay.


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