April 11th, 1995
Cable Television and the Internet

04/11/95 RMIUG Meeting Minutes - Cable Television and the Internet

The fifteenth meeting of the Rocky Mountain Internet Users Group (RMIUG) was April 11th, 1995. It featured Jim Ginsburg (from Jones Interactive) who presented "Cable Television and the Internet." Dan Murray (dan@rmiug.org) MC'd the meeting and there were ~75 people in attendance. Minuteman was Alek Komarnitsky (alek@rmiug.org).

Pls note that our next meeting will be held at the NIST auditorium (instead of NCAR) - pls see details below.

Some misc. administrativia/announcements:

  • Dan Murray talked about RMIUG's move to NIST - Why the move? Several meetings have overflowed the NCAR conference room, and we have therefore shut off all meeting publicity (outside of the Email list) to limit attendance. We feel strongly that RMIUG should be open to anyone, and the May meeting will be of particular interest to new users of the Internet. We therefore needed a larger room ... and so we thought we would give NIST a shot.

    Some misc. issues associated with this:

    • Capacity is 510 people (plenty ... but maybe too much - we'll see)
    • NIST charges us $125 for the room. Indra's Net (info@indra.com) has graciousely offered to sponsor the May meeting ... but we may have to pass the hat in the future - more info next month.
    • BUT ... we want to keep RMIUG free and open to all!!!
    • SO ... if you know anyone interested in sponsoring a meeting, pls have them contact us at rmiug-comm@rmiug.org
    • Still plan to have refreshments (thanx InternetOne) ... but NIST is concerned about this ... so let's be neat! ;-)
    • We are not able to reserve the room a year in advance like we are at NCAR ... so we may not get the 2nd Tuesday of every month - we shall see.

    RMIUG (especially Alek! ;-) really likes the NCAR room ... and the support we have gotten from the NCAR people has been great. But we've just been too big for that room at times. So we're going to try NIST in May (with an eye toward that as a permanent meeting place) and see how it goes.

    BTW, it should be noted that RMIUG is a true non-profit; we have *NO* $$$ ...

  • Will Clurman (will@rmiug.org, 303-440-0402) modeled (!) the RMIUG T-shirts and passed these out to people who had ordered one. RMIUG would like to thank Kaleigh Santos (kaleigh@solarz.Colorado.edu), who really ran with the ball for us on this issue - thanx "K".

  • Bill Trowbridge (billt@infopower.com, 303-750-8495) mentioned he has a Home Page that lists all Colorado Computer User Groups and other Professional Groups. Check it out at http://www.rmii.com/~billt

  • Neal McBurnett (Neal.McBurnett@att.com, 303-538-4852) mentioned that the KGNU-FM Public Radio Station now has an Internet precense where you can safely donate money with your credit card. The KGNU Donation Page is at: http://bcn.boulder.co.us/cgi-bin/member-kgnu

  • One user reported that his Fortune 500 company had recently suspended an employee for excessive use of the Internet during Business Hours. This sparked a short discussion - another person commented how Littleton School are grappling with how to restrict access to students after they give them Internet accounts.

Our speaker was Jim Ginsburg (ginsburg@meu.edu) from Jones Interactive and he gave an excellent, informative, frank, and humourous talk about how Cable Television and the Internet will get along. RMIUG would also like to thank John Rossie who was able to assist us in lining up this speaker.

Jim Ginsburg joined the Company in April 1981 as MIS Director for Jones Intercable, Inc. In 1983, he was named President of Jones Information Management, Inc. (JIMI). Mr. Ginsburg was named Chief Information Officer in May 1989 for the holding company Jones International, Ltd. and Jones Intercable, Inc. In 1992, Mr. Ginsburg joined the newly formed Jones Interactive, Inc. as Senior Information Officer. Mr. Ginsburg is responsible for advanced technologies' development within the Jones' family of companies, including educational systems, telecommunications and extended cable television services.

Jim started his talk with the simple example of the business card ... and how it wasn't that many years ago when FAX Numbers were a novelty. Now, everybody has them. He then talked about how Email addresses were something new ... but they're becoming pretty common. The newest "high-tech" addition is a URL listing your Corporate Home Page.

He went on to describe the MTV generation that has high expectations; but this will require in upgraded infrastructre. For example, the "typical" text based Email is 22 Kbytes, a Book is about ~240K, a pciture is ~300K, an audio clip ~475K, and a *second* of video ~2,400K.

Jim had an excellent slide show that generated several lively discussions that ranged across several topics:

Physical Architecture. Cable is migrating from existing Co-axial cable to fiber. In addition, various "router-like" capabilities are being put in place, so signals can be "narrowcasted" (down to groups as small as 200 households) rather than broadcasted across the entire cable system.

A big issue for Cable is the "Back-channel" - i.e. how do you get a signal from the house back to the Cable Company. Currently, other channels (i.e. modem over phone) are used, since typically this doesn't require a lot of bandwidth. But efforts are underway to make sure the equipment (Cable, Repeaters, etc.) are "reverse-ready"

Interestingly enough, the spectrum on the cable from 60 MHz on down is allready reserved for back-channel traffic; this is adaquate for 10 seperate channels of TV ... or (using today's technology) 9-10 data channels of 10 MBit/sec capacity.

One huge advantage for Cable is that is solves the "Last-Mile" problem. I.e. it brings a fairly large/thick data "pipe" into you house. Jim said that although various "tricks" have been played with Copper Twisted-Pair (i.e. phone company), this is ultimatelly limited.

BTW, it is true that there are times when the Cable company comes in and rips up the lawn to replace their Coax with Fiber ... and then a few months later, the phone company rips open the lawn again to replace their wiring! ;-) Too bad these guys don't talk to each other more ...

One challenge for the Cable company is getting the cost of the RF Modem down - this converts the Cable signal to Ethernet so you can plug your PC in. 500Kbit/sec modems are about $350 now, but 10 Mbit/sec modems are about $5,000 ... but they hope to push this down to $800 by year end. One RMIUG'er said his company hopes to have a 10 Mbit/sec modem available in prototype in the next month or so for $300!

Depending on how things are structured (above equipment would probably be rented/leased), Jim thinks they could offer 500 Kbit/sec access to the Internet for $20/month. Jones plans to offer this service commercially in 1995 in selected areas, with other locations as demand and technical capabilities allow.

Software architecure. There are some really big routing/addressing issues associated with give tens of thousands (eventually millions) of people direct Internet access. IP address space exhaustion comes right to mind ... but hopefully other efforts (IPng) will solve this soon. [Note: our speaker in June will probably talk about IP-Next Generation]

WRT routing: Jones is working with the leading networking companies, and pushing the leading/bleeding edges in this area. Problem include the large number of networks, and the raw speed required.

"Universal Access" Jim mentioned several times that Jones' is in the business of making money ... so there is an economic incentive to roll out new services in markets/areas where they will make money. This has the potential to leave some areas "behind" ... although he mentioned they have an agressive program for educational instituations and libraries.

Security. Even thought the Set-Top box allows addressing to an individual household, they actual signals can be seen/tapped in other households (Note: most Local Area Networks operate in a similar fashion). The ultimate solution is encryption at the Set-Top box and at the server/Cable-head ... but this will take time.

Standards. One problem Jones has had is the lack of standards in the computer business (both hardware & software). In the TV business, there is only one connection on the back of the boob-tube. You just plug that Coax cable in ... and it works! Not quite the case in the Computer Business! ;-)

Along those lines is training/education. Many people can't even program their VCR's ... so bringing them up to speed on the Internet will be an even bigger challenge (another reason to come to RMIUG meetings, eh? ;-)

Jim closed by mentioned several content (versus just delivery) businesses/offerings that Jones does. You can check most of these out by looking under the URL http://www.meu.edu:

- The Mind Extension University delivers actual creditable course work that is offered over the Cable Network.

- The Jones Computer Network which offers programs that are helpful to the novices and guru's (your chance for 10 nano-seconds of fame! ;-)

- The Global Electronic Library is a joint project with Jones and the the National Library of Congress & the National Library of Canada to help preserve data/history. A related/similar project is the the American Memory Project where paper/microfiche/etc records are converted to an electronic format. This not only preserves our history, but allows wider access.

- Jones Interactive also produces CD-ROM titles. Working with content from our affiliated organizations, such as Jones Entertainment Group and Mind Extension University, CD-ROMs are made in educational and reference arenas. Two current titles under production are: Charlton Heston's voyage through the bible (with content from the video series from Entertainment Group) and the Encyclopedia of Information Infrastructure.

The next RMIUG meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, May 9th at 7pm. This meeting will be held at the main conference room at National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST, formally called NBS). This is located at 325 South Broadway - one block South of Baseline on the West side of Broadway (big bldg - you can't miss it! ;-) Entrance in on the East side of the Bldg, and free parking is available to the North and around back.

Our speaker will be Art Smoot, who will discuss various ways of connecting to the Internet and what they all mean. Those of you that remember Art's earlier meeting will recall he does an excellent job of explaining the complexities of the Internet. Internet Newbies and even long-time users (who want to really understand what is going on behind the scenes) will find this meeting quite useful.

RMIUG wishes to thank Internet One of Boulder for sponsoring the refreshments, and XOR Network Engineering for electronic "stuff."

Suggestions/comments/feedback are always welcome - please email these to rmiug-comm@rmiug.org or call Dan Murray at 447-3475.

Contact Information:

RMIUG "Executive" Committee: rmiug-comm@rmiug.org
RMIUG Librarians (Joe Betts & Bo the Bohemian): rmiug-books@rmiug.org
RMIUG has email lists for its members. Send an email to
rmiug@rmiug.org for more info

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