Commentary by Steve Effros Yes, I know, the line is: "if you’re so smart, why ain’t you rich?" But you can’t say that about the Silicon Valley folks I was listening to at the National Show. They are rich; very rich. But I question how smart they are, and I never thought I would say that. Of course there are different kinds of "smart." They certainly know computers, and they know the Internet, and they know how to make money off of both…but it became very clear that that don’t know cable, and they don’t know broadband. That came as quite a surprise. Part of the problem, I am told, is that these folks are so smart, with so many degrees, that they really don’t listen very well. OK, maybe if I make it very simple for them they will get it: We’ve already built what you want! It’s now clear that a lot of the leading lights of the computer industry don’t really understand cable has already built an infrastructure capable of delivering as much data bandwidth as our customers want and can effectively use. The Silicon Valley types are running around complaining that the US is "behind" in broadband, that we don’t have systems fast enough (meaning using enough bandwidth) to do all the wonderful things they can think of broadband doing. They are calling for "broadband 2.0" and think we only have 1.0, in their terminology, right now. They want 20 Megabyte speed, or 200, or 1 Gigabit for all their gaming and streaming applications, instead of the 3 to 5 that is common in cable modems. And they think that means a whole new industry sector must be created, whether wired or wireless. They openly wonder how long it will take and how much money it will cost to "rebuild" our current American broadband infrastructure to deliver on the promises they envision. They finance lobbying groups in Washington to push for more broadband regulation and federal funds to build more infrastructures to achieve that goal of ultra-fast, fully deployed broadband. The cable industry already is "fully deployed." It just spent $95 billion. Do they seriously think we didn’t design the new system to provide as much data bandwidth as anyone wanted? Are they kidding? We use only around 6 to 12 MHz for broadband data distribution on a system that has 750 or more MHz of bandwidth. We can easily ramp up the bandwidth use for data and accommodate any apps that our customers indicate they want. To be sure, we have bandwidth problems right now. They revolve primarily around the craziness of continued pressure on our analog television distribution and the insistence of some broadcast programmers, using the leverage of retransmission consent to continue forcing more wasteful "basic" analog placement. All that will go away when cable systems convert during the next several years to full digital distribution. It will go away when cable recovers the 450 MHz or so that is now eaten up by analog video distribution, when the "DTV transition" is completed. If Silicon Valley wants more, and faster broadband, all it has to do is help us recover that bandwidth instead of fighting in Washington and the courts to turn us into common carriers, or have the government regulate and finance more infrastructure. It’s already here, folks…. Work with us on this!

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