You’re not going to need to know that the acronym AJAX stands for Asynchronous JavaScript and XML. You may not know that XML stands for Extensible Markup Language. But you are going to soon experience the significant difference these jaw-busters make on the use of the Internet. And that is going to have a major impact on cable broadband providers. "Web 2.0" is here. Once you appreciate how fast things are moving in the Internet/computer world, you need to stand back and ask what it all might mean. The answer, I suspect, is that anyone who says they know is fooling himself. The best thing we can do is help various experiments take off in multiple directions and watch which ones succeed. For the cable industry, this means we need to maintain our push toward ever-increasing bandwidth and high-quality service. We can’t lose so long as we make good on those two things. Ajax is a modular development method that allows the creation of Internet applications which appear to function like desktop programs. Take a look at John Markoff’s excellent piece in yesterday’s New York Times entitled "Software Out There" for an explanation of a lot of the new tools coming down the pike. For our purposes, however, the important thing is that Ajax and the other new development tools allow an Internet connection to a computer seem to the user just like full programs that have been loaded onto that computer. If you have not played with one, try out Google Earth. You can do amazing things with it and visually interact with enormous databases none of which are actually on your computer. Google recently bought a web-based word processing program. They say they’re not intending to compete with Microsoft Word, but if you can get a fully functioning word processing program (with some ad content around the edges, maybe even keyed to whatever you are writing) why buy a word processing program in the future? Microsoft is reportedly looking at ways for you to run their applications without having to load them on your computer. You may just pay a yearly fee. The key to all this is the availability of huge, dynamic, reliable bandwidth. That’s our part of the equation. If you read between the lines of this evolving use of the Internet, you begin to understand part of the policy debate over "net neutrality." The "edge" programmers (Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, et al) see the Internet as integral to a distributed-function computer of the future. Broadband is the delivery mechanism. They don’t, however, want to pay for that delivery. They want the consumer to pay that cost separately. If these new "remote" program ideas really take off, there will be a significant increase in the use of broadband-and I haven’t even mentioned video delivery in all of this. What seems somewhat predictable is that our broadband networks will require constant upgrading for more speed and bandwidth. This, in turn, will force serious consideration of "metered use." It may be the only way to go if the application providers are successful at pushing all the access and delivery costs onto the end user. Either way, however, cable is in the ideal position to be the best service provider for the advent of Ajax and the new web-based applications. Just as with television, our fundamental business is easy to describe: We deliver.

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