It seems that our household has been waiting for a cable
modem longer than the American public has been waiting to finally hear President Clinton
come clean about his alleged doings with Monica Lewinsky.
And my husband, Bob, who runs a business out of our home,
is getting tired of me telling him, "Soon, Bob, soon," when asked exactly when
our cable system will launch those cable modems that he has heard so much about.
Not too long ago, Bob excitedly called me at the office,
telling me that Bell Atlantic had a free installation offer for ISDN lines, which was
about to expire. "So let's do it now," he urged.
It was tempting to take Bell Atlantic's bait for ISDN
and finally get decent, if not the best, high-speed access to the Internet.
After all, we've been waiting for a cable modem for
years. And to this day, we're still not sure when our new system owner, Cablevision
of Southern Westchester, is going to make them available in our area.
Cablevision is in the throes of a major overbuild of some
rather shabby plant that it inherited from TCI less than a year ago. So cable modems, they
tell us, might be available at the end of the fourth quarter of 1998, or in the first
quarter of 1999, or whenever.
We didn't take Bell Atlantic's bait for ISDN,
given its snail-like speed compared with cable modems, and given all of the other hassles
that go along with getting it installed.
So now, Bob is studying other high-speed options and
thinking about ADSL, which Bell Atlantic says it is getting ready to roll out in our area
in the first quarter of 1999.
In fact, Bob went to his computer-club meeting to learn
firsthand what the guest speakers -- two Bell Atlantic reps -- had to say about their
company's soon-to-be-launched "Infospeed DSL" service.
Bell Atlantic will offer that brand of ADSL in Washington,
D.C.; Pittsburgh; and Philadelphia next month, and it will roll the service out in New
York early next year.
More than 100 members attended that computer-club meeting
to hear the Bell Atlantic pitch.
The very popular Westchester PC Users Group holds a monthly
meeting, which attracts mostly grizzled home-computing veterans, like Bob, along with some
They are, for the most part, the very kind of people who
are ideal prospects for cable modems or any other high-speed option, because they need it
and they can afford it.
In her presentation, one Bell Atlantic rep mentioned cable
only once as she displayed the "road sign" slide, purportedly ranking
technologies by speed. ADSL was at the top of her chart, but we all know that it
didn't belong there.
As she pointed to the hierarchy, she said something to the
effect of, "Then, of course, there's the analog system that you have now, and
Bob said she almost mumbled the word "cable" into
the microphone, as if to not arouse any of those computer veterans who might ask about it.
Strangely, no one challenged her on the implied point that
a cable modem is slower than analog. Neither, by the way, did my Bob, who rather
sheepishly admitted that the audience -- about 80 percent male -- probably didn't
want to ruffle the nice, 20-something woman and put her on the spot.
Or maybe, Bob reasoned, nobody asked about cable because it
would seem churlish and perhaps disqualify one from the Bell Atlantic T-shirt drawing that
was to take place later in the evening. (Bob didn't win one.)
All kidding aside, Bob said he didn't speak up because
he doesn't expect to see cable modems in his lifetime around here, so why push the
Well, the point is that the telephone companies are nipping
at the heels of cable -- an industry that has had a head start in deploying cable modems,
but that will soon have competition on that front.
And like any competitor, Bell Atlantic is already taking
potshots at cable's prowess in high-speed Internet access.
For example, on the telco's Web site, Bell Atlantic
notes that "Tens and possibly hundreds of users may be connected to this local cable
line. Access speed is compromised as more users access a cable-data network. So the
capacity available to any one user inevitably drops."
And that's the kind of rubbish that cable operators
are going to confront if they ever address gatherings like the Westchester PC Users Group.
Perhaps it would behoove Cablevision to get on the WPCUG's speaker list and to tell
those potential customers about the virtues of cable modems.