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Issue #810: Jan 29–Feb 4, 2023

Q: This is not exactly a question rather than more information on fiber optic specifics. In 2003 I Joined with Corning Cable, the company that invented the fiber optic technology. I was trained and sent to work. My first job was in Keller Texas where the very first fiber optic (Fiber to the home), was deployed. I taught the Verizon technicians how to install, troubleshoot and repair fiber if damaged. I also assisted in providing fiber to the home, also known as FIOS to most of the North Dallas area. That was 19 years ago. To this day no one knows how much bandwidth it has and also how much speed it can handle. No one has been able to test its limits to the max.  I would be glad to discuss more on this issue if you are interested.

– Grady R.
Destin, Florida

A: Well now, if there’s one thing I like, it’s having access to genuine subject matter experts, and you appear to be flush with creds related to the world of fiber optics, Grady.  I’m publishing what you sent me verbatim, as I believe the geekier followers of this column will be just as interested in what you had to say as I was.  I wouldn’t be at all surprised if I call on you for your opinion in future columns.

One thing that jumped out at me was your statement about the upward limit of the speed.  At first glance, it would appear that your statement is at odds with what I said in the recent column where I discussed fiber optics (Geek Note: I.G.T.M. #807, January 8, 2023).  In that issue, I said that “it’s a race between cable and fiber.  Cable seems to top out at around 1 Gigabit per second (Gbps), and the fiber packages I’ve seen offer competitive speeds, with room for upward growth.”  Note that last part.  I was talking about the limits of the service being offered, not the technology itself.  Yes, there is certainly substantial room for faster and faster speeds.  But achieving those speeds usually requires highly specialized hardware at each end of the fibers.  Like any other technology, this hardware must come down to a friendly price point, and be manufactured in sufficient quantity to make it a worthwhile investment for providers to deem it worthy of their companies’ money.  It is happening right now and will continue into the foreseeable future. We already live in a time where nearly anyone can have a data pipe into their home that would be jaw-dropping to someone from 10 years ago or so.  I won’t even try to predict where we’ll be in another 10 years, as technology continues its relentless march forward.

Thanks again, Grady.  Your thoughtful commentary on my columns is most welcome and appreciated.  Keep ‘em coming!

 Q: Just a suggestion — I ran across what seems (to me) to be a questionable business practice.  My internet and TV provider rents me HD set top boxes. Recently, I discovered that the TV service is available on my streaming platform (Roku).  I can return the boxes, end the rental charges, and have the same service!  Surprisingly, the service provider neglected to tell me about this option. Go figure.

 – Jack J.
Panama City, Florida

A: I hope it doesn’t surprise you that I don’t think this is surprising at all.  The way people receive their entertainment has been in a state of flux for a number of years.  Streaming services have popped up all over the place, have added more and more content over time, and are rapidly supplanting more traditional methods.  It is natural to have some overlap in availability.  To do otherwise would have required ripping the rug out from under people, and the way they’ve been watching TV for many years.

Before you make any changes like you’re talking about, do a little investigating, or better yet, a trial run.  You may find that things you take for granted, such as live sports events, local news and weather, and so on, are either not available at all, or are just plain inconvenient to access, requiring you to go to a different app, page or website for each, rather than just picking up a remote and changing channels.  If you try it, and can live with it, then go for it.

One other thing to note is that the so-called “free content” that you rely on, whether it’s streaming, or via cable/satellite, is not actually free.  Someone is paying for you to watch it, and a contract dispute can take your channels – along with your favorite shows – away from you in a heartbeat, and you have no recourse.  It’s going on right now with my provider and one of my favorite channels to vegetate with at night.

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