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From: (Floyd Davidson)
Newsgroups: comp.dcom.modems
Subject: Re: Is my phone guy correct?
Date: 1 Sep 1998 18:41:32 GMT

Fred Goodwin, CMA <> wrote:
> wrote:
>>But instead of the telco's making a fortune on data calls, modem
>>companies have and are.  Because in the late 80's the standard
>>telco manager's response to the installation of ISDN facilities
>>was that there is not a large enough customer base to provide
>>the return needed on the investment.  Telco people are just now
>>beginning to conceptualize what a computer network is...
>>That line was bullshit then, and it is bullshit now.
>I'm gonna disagree, but only to a certain extent.  Let me ask you: what
>exactly would all those customers have used ISDN for?  If you recall, there
>was *no* commercially available Internet service to Joe Blow residential
>consumers until the mid-90s.  NSF requirements *prohibited* commercial traffic
>over the Internet until the early-mid 90s.  Finally, the web, with all it's
>graphics and video files (and attendant bandwidth demands), didn't take off
>until after the browser was invented in '94.

Restrictions on Internet access were lifted in 1987.  Access to
the Internet _did_ take off, and has been climbing at the same
rate every since.  I would seriously question which was actually
more important, higher bandwidth modems or the WWW concept, in
bringing The Net to The Masses.  It took both.

However, the simple fact is that even in the late 1980's, when
telco's were unable to conceive of computer users wanting ISDN
lines, ISDN at 64K was considered too slow by anyone with a real
understanding of where the world was going.  We may not have all
specifically evisioned the effect of HTML and web browsers, but
it was a known fact that network mounted file systems require a
minimum of 5Mb sustained to be effective (hence 1Mb starlan and
4Mb token ring networking became extinct immediately), and video
bandwidths were then considered to be even higher than they are
today.  ISDN was too little too late before 1990, but _if_ it
had been installed...  telco's would have made the big bucks
that modem companies did _and_ they would have seen in the early
1990 (rather than in the late 1990's) that even greater
bandwidth is a very marketable commodity.  In either case, ISDN
is a short lived transition technology, just as v.34 modems are.

What did happen was that telco's missed the boat entirely, lost
all of that market to modem companies and were not shaken out of
their stupor until the otherwise totally silly idea of cable
companies stealing not only the Internet access market but the
telco's switched message traffic market as well.  Telephone
industry leaders right up until very recent times (e.g., Bob
Allen of AT&T and the fiasco involved in replacing him) just
could not get it through their heads that in a very short time
there will be absolutely no market at all for message traffic
(voice calls).  That has always been the mainstay of the
telephone industy, and people with vision were saying in the
late 1980's that it would vaporize soon, but telco managers did
not see that until it actually started to happen.  Today there
are traffic studies and very graphic details which every board
of directors in the country has seen, and the downward line for
revenue from message traffic crosses a very steap upward line
from packet switched data in the very near future.  In ten years
any telco that is not packet switching data is also not going to
be making any money... and very shortly will not exist.

>So if you're using Internet demand today, and assuming the same demand
>would've beenn there in the early-mid 80s, I doubt it.  The only PCs that had
>GUIs at that time were Macs; PCs were still DOS, and you don't need a 64K
>connection to do a DOS-character session to a local bulletin board or to send
>email via FidoNet.

Early 80's, sure, but I was talking late 80's.  By 1987, when
access became unrestricted it was available at very reasonable
costs.  Not only were commercial concerns and Universities
putting in IP networks, but individuals were too.  Ever heard of
a Sun2 or Sun3 workstation?  GUI and TCP/IP networking all built
in.  I personally was using an AT&T 3B1, with the same abilities
(lower cost and lower umph though).  FidoNet was a toy compared
to the Internet even then.

>I think the telcos were right(at the time): there really wasn't sufficient
>demand for high-priced, higher speed connections in the mid-80s, at least not
>for data traffic.  The telcos thought video on demand would be the driver for
>ISDN (and later for FTTC); that never panned out.
>ISDN demand didn't take off until web usage did.  And unless you have a
>scenario for similar usage 15 years ago, then I think the telcos made the
>right decision by *not* deploying a costly technology like ISDN until proven
>demand was actually there to support the costs.

Talk to computer networking people instead of telco people and
the exact opposite picture is painted.  The key place in time
was when uunet and PSI came on line with commercial access to
the net.  At that point all that was needed was higher data
rates... which didn't happen until v.34 modems.  ISDN would have
had the same, or even greater, effect.


Floyd L. Davidson                      
Ukpeagvik (Barrow, Alaska)

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