Commentary By Steve Effros CABLE’S FIBER ADVANTAGE Over 15 years ago I wrote a rant about the cover of a business magazine showing a telephone with a loop of rainbow infused fiber optic cable connected to it. The telephone had pushbuttons, one labeled HBO, the next CBS, then ESPN, etc. The headline was "Hello Fiber, Goodbye Cable." The article was clearly planted by the telephone companies who, even back then, were hyping Wall Street with the story that they were "about to" build out a "fiber" infrastructure which would supercede the video delivery already being provided by cable. My first reaction was that it was so strange to read otherwise reasonably intelligent writers miss the point that "fiber" IS "cable," just as "coax" is cable. They’re just different types of cable…and both have lots of bandwidth and each has benefits over the other for certain applications. But they are both CABLE. My second reaction, over the years, was to remember the quotes by former Bell Atlantic chief Ray Smith, who famously said, in 1995: "I would say that by 2000, we’ll have 50 percent of the cable TV business-no doubt about it. Meanwhile, the cable companies won’t have even 3 percent of telephony revenues in their best market." And even more famously, in 1997: "Every year for the past five years we have said we will be delivering a video product two years from now. I still stand by that." Well, now it’s clear, finally, in 2005, that some of the former Baby Bells will be delivering video to the home soon. They are in the process of building systems in several areas, and they are blowing enormous amounts of smoke at Wall Street and the consumer press, once again, about their magic "silver bullet" which will slay the cable dragon: fiber. Of course this stuff is better known as "fiber optic CABLE," but they wouldn’t want anyone to figure out that it is cable, now would they? No, we hear about things like "FiOS" and "FTTN" (fiber to the node) and the like. And the press and Wall Street are agog. Well listen up! Cable has been building "HFC" ( hybrid FIBER cable) systems for years! "HFC" is "FTTN"! We have used fiber in our delivery systems, bringing signals to the "nodes" where they then split off into people’s homes, for longer than the telephone companies have actually been building video delivery systems… by far! The cable industry uses more fiber to deliver residential video than any telephone company anywhere in the US, and that will be true for quite some time. Enough of this nonsense about linking telcos with fiber and cable with an "older" system. It’s nonsense. Cable television has long led the way on using fiber in those parts of the system (the long "trunk" runs) where it is most efficient. The connection to the house that cable uses, a coaxial drop, has a bandwidth capacity of about 1Gig! Putting "fiber" directly into the home does not make a system any "better" or more efficient, and some would argue less, since fiber cannot be self-powered. It’s time to stop intentionally confusing consumers, reporters, and especially those folks on Wall Street who apparently have forgotten that the cable industry is the leader in using fiber optic video distribution to the home, and has been for quite some time. We welcome the telco newcomers. Maybe they will actually deliver their promises this time. But make no mistake: the cable industry already has an excellent infrastructure advantage, including fiber.