How many times have you heard the term "rapidly changing technology," or something to that effect? Did you ever stop to think about what that means in real terms? Consider Yvette Gordon-Kanouff. As chair of SCTE, she’s trying to influence how technology is changing. She’s also trying to establish standards that will ensure an ocean of hardware, software and middleware options play nice. On top of that she’s trying to make certain this industry’s backbone, the technicians who design, build and maintain our networks, know what the heck they’re doing when they go to work every morning. Talk about herding cats. Last week, one of the most technically challenged people ever-namely me-took some time out to catch up with Gordon-Kanouff and get my hands around the issues impacting SCTE, and by extension, the industry. I’m glad I did. I came to better understand such things as Open Cable Application Platforms (OCAP), cable cards, DOCSIS standards and switched digital. While I’d like to tell you that such things would make me a hit at my next cocktail party, I know better. Most people don’t care about such things, even people in this industry. To those of you who don’t know what those things are, all I can say is shame on you. Like it or not, the future of this industry rests on how smart our networks are and how smart we manage them. While an intimate knowledge of technology is not essential, given that the stakes are increasing overnight (check out how AT&T spent its weekend), it might not be such a bad idea to become a little more conversant. Take bandwidth for example. Gordon-Kanouff believes many cable peoples’ image of bandwidth as a pipe is as outdated as big hair and leg warmers. When we finally realize an all-digital world, just about everything we’ve believed to be true will get turned upside down and everything we’ve dreamed possible will become reality. "When we get (to all digital) the concept of channels goes away and what we’re going to have is one big fat network that all these services can share." It’s at that point, according to Gordon-Kanouff, that such things as bandwidth efficiency and consolidated backbone traffic become essential. "It’s all about flexibility. If every service is contending for 100 Mps, how do I prioritize which one gets the 100 Mps, when I’ve got 200 Mps being asked for?" Certain "logics" are being designed that eventually will create a smart network-one that will manage network capacity by doing such things as re-allocating bandwidth from one service to another, depending upon demand. Why should we, the unwashed non-technical masses, give a whit about this stuff? Because according to the SCTE chair, it will result in new revenue, lower churn and more options for consumers. "And let’s be honest," she added, "That’s always the end game, right?" Gordon, who holds multiple patents and is a mathematician by trade, also worked on developing the now-storied Full Service Network for Time Warner Cable. She says that fact makes her proud, in large part because many of the services developed for the FSN a decade ago have been repackaged now and still may become great successes. To that end, I asked her if she and her old FSN buddies have some sort of a secret handshake as they move, undetected, among us at trade shows and other industry events. "Of course we do," she said. "And I could tell you what it is, but then I’d have to kill you."

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