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||Will we all surf the Web using cable modems anytime soon? Don't bet on it. This is not to say that cable modem technology doesn't work. It certainly does, and there is a market for the reasonably priced, lightning-fast Net access it promises.
||But before the new services can take hold, the major cable companies will have to invest billions of dollars to lay fiber-optic cable; install new bidirectional amplifiers; and add expensive head-end controller equipment, routers, and servers. Upgrading the cable infrastructure will require capital that the cable industry may have trouble raising.
Even after the infrastructure is in place, a lack of standards means that the first cable modem systems will require you to use the same brand of cable modem as the cable company uses on its head end. Imagine if you had to buy a specific brand of modem to connect to each Internet service provider. Fortunately, some standards are in the works. The IEEE has formed a subgroup of its Ethernet Standards Committee to develop a set of specifications designed to let cable modems interoperate with various head ends.
At $30 to $50 per month, cable access to the Net
is likely to cost far less than telco solutions
like ADSL--and it'll be much faster.
But cable-based Net access may also be less reliable. The telephone network enjoys a generally excellent reputation for service, but despite spending big bucks on technology and public relations, cable companies are still fighting a reputation for unreliability and poor service.
So, will some of us be surfing the Web
using cable modems in a few years?
In the 15 percent to 20 percent of the country where cable companies can easily upgrade their infrastructures, fast and inexpensive cable-based Net access should be available soon. But the rest of us will have to wait. Of course, if the telephone industry is as slow to move on ADSL as it was on ISDN, we may not have much choice. In fact, the most viable near-term solution for many people may be wireless cable. That's because wireless cable doesn't require building expensive connections to every subscriber's house.
One transmitter can serve
thousands of customers.
Our advice: jump on whatever fast-access technologies become available in your area. Just be prepared to bite the bullet and switch when something better comes along.