CeePrompt! Computer Connection

In changing world of media, bandwidth is everything

Originally published July 21, 1997
Cathi Schuler

Isn't it somewhat disconcerting when familiar, dependable icons in our life suddenly take on a new life form? I'll never get used to calling Candlestick Park, 3Com Park, nor did the name LA Raiders ever seem to fit. I'm still not accustomed to our local TV Channels 13 and 10 swapping network affiliations nor can I break The Stockton Record habit. It's now The Record.

The same feeling crept in the morning I awoke and Continental Cablevision had disappeared. Overnight the identity had changed. The trucks were repainted, uniforms were changed, the billing was different and the familiar logo had simply vanished. Who the heck is MediaOne and where did they come from?

Such company changes are usually the result of mergers, acquisitions and decisions at a corporate level to which the end user is never fully privy. The metamorphosis from Continental Cable to MediaOne is no exception. In November 1996, Continental Cablevision was acquired by communications giant US West Media Group and on May 13th 1997 the resulting merger formally adopted it's new identity: MediaOne.

Continental Cable was one of many acquisitions that now positions US West Media as the nation's third largest cable company with more than 5 million subscribers. The new name, MediaOne, signals the company's direction toward new lines of business including video, telephony and high speed Internet access. It's not just cable TV anymore!

Broadband is the new buzzword in the cable industry that represents Internet access and transfer rates at lightening speeds. Imagine tapping into the Internet at speeds 50 times faster than conventional phone modems and 12 times faster than ISDN lines while simultaneously receiving streaming video, audio and voice communication!

Bandwidth has always been the name of the game in speedy Internet access. The more bandwidth available to transmit data, the faster information flows. Our POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service) analog access lines are painfully narrow and already stretched to their transmission limits. Recent technological developments such as 56.6K analog modems have borrowed time, but with the voracious demands of Web graphics, we're destined to outgrow POTS in a very short time. ISDN offers faster digital access, but still utilizes the existing telephone network.

Broadband is a hybrid fiber optic/coaxial cable network with two-way capabilities that brings you high speed Internet access, video and telephony over a single wire. It's huge, in terms of bandwidth. Really big. MediaOne is marketing its cable Internet access as "MediaOne Express", but don't look to sign on quite yet. MediaOne Express is not yet available in our area.

Readying an existing cable network for Internet access requires considerable upgrades to the existing plants and infrastructure to enable true, two-way capabilities. MediaOne expects to spend $5 billion before the year 2000 to retrofit it's Broadband network of coaxial cable and fiber optic line.

Analysts observe that the cable industry is taking a very careful and methodical approach to this emerging technology, concentrating on small area markets first to insure that all the kinks are worked out before massive upgrades and marketing strategies are undertaken. MediaOne Express is currently offered in selected areas of Boston, Detroit, Atlanta and Jacksonville, Fla. with expansion plans imminent for other areas of the country. A visit to the MediaOne Express website in Jacksonville, Florida will give you a good flavor for the power that Broadband has brought to this community. http://www.jacksonville.net/

If and when Broadband comes to town, you'll need the right hardware to harness this breakneck speed. Both PCs and Macs will need Ethernet cards for network compatibility. With this network interface, there's no need to dial-up your connection to the Net. Instead, it's always "on", just like your TV cable. Additionally, a cable modem is necessary to "modulate" the communications between your PC and the cable network. Ideally, MediaOne Express users will need a Pentium processor with 16MB RAM and 50MB free hard disk space. You can expect to pay approximately $40 a month for this service.

A local MediaOne representative was unavailable for comment, but on a corporate level, MediaOne affirms, "Our business plan is to continue to upgrade your community so that we can provide you the very latest in enhanced services as soon as possible".

In this instance, the change to MediaOne is a good one and if their goals are realized, it will be a welcomed not only as fast access, but as a technology that will ease the presently overburdened Internet network.

Cathi Schuler owns a computer literacy training/consulting company, Cee Prompt! She is a co-author of computer textbooks and can be reached by e-mail at cschuler@uop.edu or cschuler@ceeprompt.com or by mail c/o The Record, P.O. Box 900, Stockton, CA 95201. She is on the Internet at: http://www.ceeprompt.com. Click here for past archived columns.
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