Interview Date: December 11, 2018
Interview Location: Cable Center Studio, Denver, CO USA
Interviewer: Paul Maxwell
Collection: Cable Center Oral History Project
PAUL MAXWELL: Hi. I’m Paul Maxwell. I’m here at the Cable Center in Denver, Colorado on the grounds of the University of Denver, and I’m here today to interview David Fellows. He’s been around this industry quite a while.
DAVID FELLOWS: A few decades. A few decades.
MAXWELL: Yes. Me too. Why did you get in the business? Was it the only job you could find? Is that what...
FELLOWS: It was, well, let’s see. I started off in the phone industry out of graduate school. A professor that I had said, “Hey, I want to find you a job.” The first time sheer dumb luck appeared in my life, I sent my resume to GTE Sylvania. So I could have had my job be trying to take 10 cents out of the cost of the manufacturer of a Sylvania TV set, except the person I’d sent it to had just transferred to GTE Laboratories. So I went to work at GTE Labs in 1976, working on all of these real futuristic things, like fiber optics. I know you’re not going to believe this, Paul, but you can shine light in one end of a piece of glass --
MAXWELL: And it comes out the other end?
FELLOWS: -- and it comes out the other end, way far away. (laughter) In order to make proper use of fiber, you needed to digitize, at the time, voice. So I was an expert out of graduate school in digital signal processing, digital techniques. So I was doing digital filters, digital conversation, and took the phone industry and digitized it. So at GTE -- you know, AT&T gets all the credit, but at GTE we had the first fiber to carry live telephone traffic.
MAXWELL: It was voice-only then?
FELLOWS: It was voice-only. So four kilohertz wide, versus a TV picture of six megahertz wide. A thousand times easier to do voice.
FELLOWS: Basically, I’ve been stuck in that same time warp my entire life, because moving from the research lab, we took it out to the real world for voice. I then took it to the cable industry for video. Then while I was at GTE Labs, GTE acquired a company called Telenet, which had a packet protocol X.25.
MAXWELL: It shared a packet -- right.
FELLOWS: Larry Roberts, a spinout of Arthur D. Little. So I learned to speak “data.” At GTE Labs, I learned to speak “telephone.” Then I wound up moving out into the product division and making the products based on the research that we had. Then my division was sold to Siemens. So I went to work for Siemens. But the same person, a guy named Bill Johnson, had worked as consultant at GTE, and I’d run into him there. He went to Scientific Atlanta.
MAXWELL: I was going to say, right.
FELLOWS: As CEO under Sid Topol, the chairman.
FELLOWS: He immediately cornered me, and said, “You’ve got to come, bring all of that telephone whiz bang futuristic stuff to our world.” So that’s how I got into the industry with Scientific Atlanta.
MAXWELL: So to be sure your bases are touched, where did you go to school?
FELLOWS: Oh. Well, I went to school at Harvard, studying, well, to quote one of my classmates, “Good God, Fellows, you’ve turned Harvard into a vocational school!” (laughter) I was one of two people that graduated with an SB degree in Engineering and Applied Physics. One of two people, and the only one with honors -- sorry, Peter. Then after that I went to graduate school at Northeastern. So I have a Master’s of Science from Northeastern, and then from there went to GTE Laboratories.
MAXWELL: Wow. Where was GTE Labs then?
FELLOWS: In Waltham, Massachusetts.
MAXWELL: So you couldn’t get out of Massachusetts yet.
FELLOWS: I couldn’t get out yet. But eventually, GTE, you know, after I did all of this work, I was seconded from GTE Labs to GTE Corporate in Stamford, Connecticut. So for 26 months, 14 days, who was counting, I commuted to Stamford, Connecticut because GTE had just acquired this Telenet. And Telenet said, all the world -- this is 35 years ago -- “All the world is going to be packetized voice.” And they said, well, OK, if you packetize the voice, you create a delay. Then our analog network, that creates echo, so I need an echo canceller chip. Who in this company knows about echo canceller chips? Well, it was old digital signal processing Dave. So I calculated the price of an echo canceller chip three years from the date of the question in volume, and laid it all out logically. They said, “Holy mackerel, we need this guy to help guide us through this.” Of course, in the end we decided -- Telenet didn’t like this at all, but we decided, yes, the future was packet voice, 35 years ago. But maybe the timing wasn’t right. You know? Again, that’s the first time I ran into this. You can --, it’s easy to be a visionary, you know? Fiber’s going to go to every home in America. You’ve got to get the timing right. You know, all voices can be packetized, but we were approximately 25 years too early.
MAXWELL: And you’re still thinking just voice, at that stage?
FELLOWS: Just voice at that time.
FELLOWS: But now, this is the first time that voice and data had begun to go together. Then that same consultant, Bill Johnson, who ran that study at our corporate headquarters, eventually wound up at Scientific Atlanta, called me up. I went to work for him, first in the satellite division, and the cable TV division.
MAXWELL: Well, they all kind of came together, in a sense, with the movement from sending signals to headends, and getting around that problem.
FELLOWS: Well, that was it. I was in charge of the headend business, the transmission business, which, in effect, wound up being president of it, which was the headend business, and then the outside plant -- amplifiers and power supplies and taps and passives and such. But in the back of my mind, OK, I see the convergence of voice and data. Now suddenly we’ve begun to digitize video, and the grand alliance of GI [General Instrument] and MIT and such.
FELLOWS: I thought, all right, we’ve got voice, we’ve got data, we’ve got video, maybe they can all be converged on a cable network. Then I was more or less happy at GTE [should have said S-A], when Continental Cablevision came calling. Bill Schleyer, working for Amos Hostetter, came down and said, “I’d like to have dinner with you.” I said, “Well, you’re one of my larger customers. You can have dinner anywhere you want.” They said, “Look, this fiber thing is changing the face of Continental Cablevision.” It used to not matter, New England could do its thing and Florida could do something completely different. In fact, Amos believed that the local ownership by the local division was more important than pooling their resources, and trying to bang another five percent price discount out of a supplier. But suddenly with fiber, you could see that all of Continental was going to be connected together. Therefore, what happened in New England did matter to Florida. So they brought me in as corporate engineer number one. Amos wasn’t so sure he wanted to -- this was 1993 -- wasn’t so sure he wanted to do that, because you know, when one engineer shows up, suddenly a whole bunch show up. And I said, “OK, Amos, here’s the deal. You will have to come to me to say, ‘Dave, I think you need to hire more people.’ I won’t ever come to you.” At the time I needed a title, so they came up with a nice formal title. I said, “Well, how about evangelist?” Because basically, I wasn’t making the decisions for New England, or the decisions for Florida. I was out --
MAXWELL: Selling the idea, right?
FELLOWS: Selling the idea, and getting the work together and saying, hey, here’s what New England’s doing. Doesn’t that look like a good idea? So I wanted the title “evangelist.” Bill Schleyer said, “That makes you sound like a two-bit satellite preacher. No.” So I was CTO and head of Engineering for them.
MAXWELL: So how did you get the rest of the industry to follow along?
FELLOWS: Well, when I moved to Continental, Dick Green, president of CableLabs came, and said, “All right, I need to involve you in CableLabs, but really I don’t have a place for you. We’re going to invent a new group called the Multimedia Group, and Dave, you’re going to be in charge. You’re the head of the Multimedia Committee of CableLabs.” I said, “OK, what’s Multimedia?” “Well, we’re not sure, but it’s, like, multiple media. So voice and data and video and all that stuff together, and interactive stuff.” So it was sort of out of that group where we discovered a market. It was that same year, early 1993, when the first web browser was --
MAXWELL: Right. Showed up.
FELLOWS: -- showed up. I was actually at Harvard’s Kennedy School; there was a group there trying to figure out, how do we regulate this new thing? You know, great. Slap regulation on it.
MAXWELL: Right. Well, if it moves, you have to do that.
FELLOWS: And they showed the point and click, and I knew Gopher, and a few command lines like that on the internet. But this was now point and click. I said, huh, my mother could do that. And they said, well, this internet thing is great. It doesn’t always work, because it’s just a hobble of the network of networks. Sometimes it works. But when it works, it’s great. I said, “That kind of sounds like a cable system. Doesn’t work all the time, 40 amplifier cascades and lots of noise when it rains. But so I set about there in ’93 putting the internet on a cable system.
MAXWELL: And you’re on coax?
FELLOWS: We’re on coax.
MAXWELL: Almost complete, I would assume --
FELLOWS: So that meant that the reverse path was kind of crappy --
FELLOWS: -- because you added up all the noise in the reverse direction, all the noise from every home gets added together until you get up to the headend. If you’re adding together ten thousand homes, it’s a lot of noise. But we were using fiber two different ways. I describe the fact that fiber was used to connect systems together, so you wound up without a headend in every town and city. They were now all connected together. But fiber was also used to divide a system up, a city up, into blocks of homes. You know, ten thousand homes, or a thousand homes. Today it’s probably a hundred homes with hybrid fiber coax -- the fiber node.
MAXWELL: Yeah. Right.
FELLOWS: So every time you split a node, you made this reverse path and data more usable. But I went into this with, OK, we’re going to take data, multimedia data, and we’re going to put it on a cable system. There was a product called GTE mainStreet, so just like Pioneer’s Qube system, GTE had mainStreet. And it was doing some video capture and flashing screens on analog set top boxes, and I knew, I discovered this internet thing, and I said, we’re going to put the internet on the television set. I went to GTE, and they were kind of clueless. But there was a company called Delphi that was doing all of the software for GTE. So I went to Delphi in Cambridge, in maybe April-May of 1993. I said, “All right, guys, you know that mainStreet thing you’ve got?” They said, “Yep.” “You know how you’ve got to do custom restaurant menus, and, you know, you can play some blackjack or other things on it, I don’t want all of that. I want to connect it to the internet, this new internet thing.” They thought about it for a second, and they said, “Well, you could do that, but that’s not what you want to do.” I said, “OK, what is it I do want to do?” They said, “You want to connect that internet thing not to the television set, but to a computer.” I said, “Oh, like, do that TV thing, but with a computer?” They said, “Exactly. We all want one in our home.” And so I said, “All right, what the heck is this internet thing?” Because we had cable modems, Rouzbeh Yassini had LanCity up in New England, and we had actually been using his product on a commercial basis. We would connect one company location with another company location, 10-megabit Ethernet with 10-megabit Ethernet, we’d connect them at 10 megabits per second, at native speed. And we had sold a few of those systems. So I knew how to get data in and out of the home. But it was the other end going to the internet. So we came across a company called PSINet. Because again, if you go back and research the early days of the internet, there was something called the “acceptable use policy,” AUP, you couldn’t use the internet to make money. This was strictly an educational, nonprofit. What happened is, a commercial internet popped up in parallel with the educational internet. This company, PSINet, was one of the first ones to operate these interconnect points. So we cut a deal with them where we would do, like, the last mile, and they would do the internet part, and launched in 1993.
MAXWELL: What was that called?
FELLOWS: Well, it went through a bunch of names.
MAXWELL: It was all local then? Each one kind of doing it --
FELLOWS: Of course the internet was national. We started in New England, then the second place we launched was in Florida. But in New England, we connected homes with LanCity modems, 10-megabit symmetric to the internet through PSI interconnection points. And it took off like crazy. In the early days of cable, I’ve heard -- I’m old, but not that old -- that there were these things called “truck chasers.”
MAXWELL: Oh, yes. You should have seen when HBO came to small towns. It was amazing to see.
FELLOWS: I had people come down to the Pilot House, Continental’s headquarters building, and wait in the foyer for me to show up at work in the morning to hand me business cards and beg me to bring service to their homes. I said, “This is crazy.” So we announced it. It wound up being featured in the Wall Street Journal. That’s when I learned another lesson in life, which is, I came to work in the morning that it was in the Wall Street Journal, and my phone was ringing. I answered it, and it was Amos Hostetter.
MAXWELL: “What have you done?”
FELLOWS: And he said -- well, no. He started with, “Dave, don’t change hardly anything that you’re doing. You’re doing a great job. I love what you’re doing. However, the next time you’re going to generate 17 column inches of favorable press for my company, I’d like to know about it ahead of time.” (laughter) Sorry, Amos, if you ever read or watch this, but we were trying to get Amos into the computer age. We actually did a nefarious thing. We all chipped together and bought his kids computers.
MAXWELL: That was a vicious thing to do!
FELLOWS: And then we figured out, knowing him and his personality, if his kids are doing the computer, he will now learn how to use a computer and learn what this is all about. So we launched that in 1993. When we were acquired by U.S. West and renamed MediaOne, it was called MediaOne Express. Before MediaOne Express, it was called Highway One. I think that was the name we came up with.
MAXWELL: Yes. I remember now.
FELLOWS: Highway One.
FELLOWS: Then fast forward, let’s see, Continental ends up with U.S. West MediaOne. MediaOne then joins with Time Warner to create a larger Roadrunner.
FELLOWS: So Time Warner had Roadrunner. The alternative was @Home, eventually [email protected] as they got a little bit into content. Again, my management came to me and said, shouldn’t we join this @Home thing? I said, “Good God, no. We’ve signed all of the internet rights, the IP rights, to anything that goes over IP to this other company. Eventually everything’s going to go IP. Your video is going to go IP, your voice is going to go to IP.
MAXWELL: Yes. You’ll have to. Right.
FELLOWS: You sign your entire future -- and by the way, we built this, and it works. So MediaOne heard that message, didn’t join @Home, but joined with Time Warner to create Roadrunner. I actually, for a while, was the interim CTO of Roadrunner. Commuted first to Stamford, Connecticut, then commuted down to Reston, Virginia, where they decided to locate the headquarters.
FELLOWS: Then I guess we’re slowly going through my career. My son was diagnosed with a brain tumor, my oldest son. So I said to the Roadrunner/MediaOne/Time Warner people, “I’ve got to go.”
MAXWELL: I’ve got other work to do, right.
FELLOWS: I’ve got more important things to do.
FELLOWS: To fast forward that story, he had four operations over an 18-month period, and today is great. He is married, has two kids.
FELLOWS: Is doing well. But I dropped everything there that brought money into the family.
FELLOWS: I still was volunteering with CableLabs, head of the DOCSIS certification board. Then I began to do work with Amos Hostetter and Bill Schleyer and myself, and a guy named Eric Krauss, and we formed Pilot House Ventures, and did venture investing, sort of in my spare time. Then Pilot House Ventures was doing pretty good, although we had to weather the 2000 crash of the marketplace. But Amos now, MediaOne, had been sold to AT&T. So Amos becomes the largest shareholder of AT&T and is on the board of AT&T.
MAXWELL: That must have been fun to watch.
FELLOWS: Well, it was the growing up of the telephone industry. Again, I grew up in the telephone industry. We believed, every telephone employee believed, that we had a manifest destiny to be the bandwidth supplier to the home. It was just, like, a God-given right to --
MAXWELL: Theodore Newton Vail’s outlook on the world.
FELLOWS: That’s right. Again, I was in the cable world, and I go on the cable listener network. It’s like this broadcast thing, you put a bit there and it shows up at every home, and there’s no engineering. It doesn’t get overloaded, or it’s all managed. We’re saying these are all good things.
FELLOWS: So they were struggling with DSL at the time, and ISDN. ISDN was the first 64 to 128 kilobits per second system, then it -- so ISDN became DSL. Then they realized the power of this coaxial network that we had, with lots of fiber.
MAXWELL: Copper wires aren’t quite as robust.
FELLOWS: No. No, and they’re not shielded.
FELLOWS: You know, if you go look at some of the early—the twin-lead cable, the cable industry learned about coax, I don’t know, what, 50 years ago, 60 years ago?
MAXWELL: Yeah, right about 55.
FELLOWS: Yeah. So AT&T decides the network to have is DCI’s network, and then MediaOne’s network.
MAXWELL: So they bought the worst one.
FELLOWS: Well, they bought the biggest one. That’s what they thought they were doing.
FELLOWS: And AT&T Broadband was struggling. So Bill Schleyer and I, with Amos’ -- I’ll call it guidance -- left Pilot House Ventures and went to AT&T Broadband. Walked into an all-employee meeting one day, and were introduced as the new bosses. That was an interesting time, as you tried to take --
MAXWELL: (laughs) I remember it well.
FELLOWS: -- take control of that. This is a day before Google, but I remember we launched the internet so you could do searches on the internet. So the staff, my new staff out there, out here in Denver, sort of searched my name, and one of the magazines, it was either Multichannel, but I think it was CED Magazine always had an April Fool’s edition.
FELLOWS: I would write April Fool’s articles for it. One of the articles I wrote is how fiber is now being destroyed by lightning. It turns out that lightning flashes make its way through the cladding and destroy, so fiber, there’s no future to fiber anymore. (laughter) So these guys, out of context, get this article --
MAXWELL: Took it seriously?
FELLOWS: They looked at this and they said, “This is funny, our new boss is a moron!” Eventually in one of my staff meetings, someone, who was probably David Eng, because he had more nerve in that he had no nerve at all. He said, “Can you explain this article we kind of found?” I said, “Yeah, look at the date. It’s April 1st. It’s an April Fool’s article.” “Oh, OK, good.” You know, what are we going to do here, are we going to do this what eventually at Comcast became known as the Triple Play? So AT&T Broadband is bought by Comcast. I became the Chief Technology Officer of Comcast. The first thing we did was get rid of voice, because it was circuit switched voice. We had all these things known as class 5 switches --
MAXWELL: It’s a waste, right.
FELLOWS: But AT&T long lines, the long-distance company, they can use the class 5 switches. So we pawned all of our switches off on them, had no legacy network, and then could launch an IP voice network, again integrated with the internet network, which was going great guns there. I mean, another interesting long weekend at AT&T Broadband, somewhere they got a fight with [email protected]
FELLOWS: I don’t know what the fight originated. Again, from my vantage point, you signed your entire future over to them, at some point you’re going to have to grab it back.
FELLOWS: So [email protected], the equivalent of pulling your programming, you know, we’re fighting with Viacom. We’re going to pull all of the Viacom programming.
FELLOWS: So they pulled all of their network out from underneath us. In a long weekend, Susan Marshall led the team that replaced every piece of the [email protected] network in under a week.
FELLOWS: They tried to get uppity and say, well, you know, you stole all of our technology. I go, “What are you talking about? I launched in 1993. You guys weren’t even incorporated until ’96 or ’97, or somewhere in there.”
FELLOWS: But now we have it. Comcast, we’ve got a huge network, roughly past half of America. We’ve got voice, which is IP voice now, we’ve got data, which is IP data. We’ve got the beginnings of digital video, and I laid out a national backbone network that was all IP, and carried video across it, you know, so that from the Comcast Media Center, at the time it was the headend in the sky, TCI.
FELLOWS: We would receive programming, we could then send it out over the fiber network. And we called it the “Triple Play.” And the backbone was integrated first, and then eventually out into the home. You know, we’re offering voice, data and video, but that all merged together on a common IP platform. You know, we got a joke I usually tell here, which is, I was Continental Cablevision, then MediaOne, then AT&T Broadband, then Comcast. I was CTO of each of those companies. I could keep a job, but I couldn’t keep a company.
MAXWELL: (laughs) That’s a good point.
FELLOWS: But again, doing voice, data and video over fiber networks was what I did right out of graduate school, you know? It’s like caught in a time warp, but getting better each time and getting more powerful. It’s interesting. I can dig out presentations I gave in 1993, 1994, where people were saying, well, what’s this internet thing? Isn’t it overblown? And my stock answer was, “In terms of waking up next Monday morning and something being completely different, it’s completely overblown.”
MAXWELL: Most things are like that, right.
FELLOWS: Yeah. I said, “But in the long run, you cannot over-hype this enough. It is going to change everything about the way that we are entertained, that we communicate, that we are educated, and in fact” -- and I would always pause at this point, again, 20 years ago, 24 years ago -- “entertained, communicate, educated, and it will change everything about the way we’re governed.” I had no idea what I was meaning by that, but I did mean it. Here, we’re in the world of Tweets, is where we are sitting.
MAXWELL: Right. EU has figured out how to regulate. The beginnings of the regulation.
FELLOWS: Yeah, and, I mean, this is an aside, but hear people, I’ve got a lot of friends who are very upset about net neutrality sort of going away. Well, for 25 years, let’s say, since we launched high-speed data, for at least 20 of that, there was no neutrality.
MAXWELL: There was absolutely none.
FELLOWS: In fact, I got in a lot of trouble to start with was, again, I come from the cable world, or I’m coming at this from the cable world, which is the cable network is a First Amendment-protected purveyor of content.
FELLOWS: In the same way you can’t go into the Denver Post here and monkey with the column lineup, the government has certain restrictions on coming in and monkeying with the channel lineup.
FELLOWS: I approach the internet the same way. I said, “Look, we’re going to carry on this high-speed data pipe. We’re going to carry the content that we agree to carry.” “What are you talking about?” I said, “Well luckily, the content we agree to carry is the content that our customers want to see.”
MAXWELL: Want to pay for. Right.
FELLOWS: Yeah. So, no problem there. But with the EU, if it ever becomes a problem, then you can regulate.
FELLOWS: Step in when there’s a problem.
MAXWELL: No, that’s an excellent point. You’ve talked about cable’s landlines, really. There’s microwave connections to some still, because you connect another node out by microwave, often. And by -- you come along with satellite. Satellite came along to compete with cable for its video customers, and had an impact --
MAXWELL: Both Dish and DirecTV, and if you remember Alphastar, and a couple of the others. I even have an Alphastar.
FELLOWS: I remember Myspace. I remember lots of the --
MAXWELL: Yeah, all of that, yeah. And Yahoo, which was the original search engine, sort of.
MAXWELL: And I was on the board of TechTV.
MAXWELL: It’s always these changes. Then G4 comes along, and voice. Cellular. It manages to figure out how to carry IP, too, which kind of brings us along to where you’re going, still.
FELLOWS: Well, OK. So Comcast -- again, culmination back to GTE Laboratories, is where voice, data, and now video are all basically the same thing and can be mixed together. You know, this is a secret, but it turns out that the metadata is perhaps more valuable than the data.
MAXWELL: True. Just ask Nielsen.
FELLOWS: Exactly. Or Google.
MAXWELL: Or Google, right.
FELLOWS: Not the YouTube part of Google, but the search engine part of Google. So voice, data, and video come together. And I’d been commuting for a bunch of years, six days a week, down to Philadelphia from my home outside of Boston. I said, all right, I’m tired. I’ve got to retire. I sort of gradually retired. I became -- from CTO, we hired Tony Werner in as CTO, and he’s still there. I became half time, then quarter time, then eighth time, then finally retired. Because I said -- and in addition, I’ve done it all. Triple Play, what’s more than Triple Play? Well, it turns out that there is a little bit more. We realize that in the world of media, or multimedia, you’ve got all of this cable programming, but now you’ve got all of this over-the-top programming, which has now taken the title “SVOD” away from the cable programming. Then there’s this third world of Twitter and YouTube and Facebook, and sort of your Digital Life video. Your kids’ soccer games and such. There’s a world of that video, over-the-top video, and cable video. That all is merging also. So we founded a company called Layer3 TV. It was just bought by T-Mobile. I’m now a senior vice president with T-Mobile, and Chief Technology Officer of Home and Entertainment, T-Mobile Home and Entertainment. We’re out there trying a couple of things. At Layer3, we had this vision of, again, over-the-top cable and Digital Life coming together. As an example, cable has Music Choice. But over-the-top has got Spotify, Pandora --
MAXWELL: Apple and more, right?
FELLOWS: Yeah, Apple iTunes. So to the extent you’ve established a world, and if you’re a kid, you have established a world there, you want it -- you don’t have to relearn, OK, what’s ’60s rock? What channel is that? You want that entire world to carry over into your cable world, or all the devices. Then with T-Mobile, the cable universe, with my cable brain on, we had this goal of any content at any time on any device --
MAXWELL: On anything?
FELLOWS: -- anywhere.
FELLOWS: Well, in the cable world, anywhere was TV Everywhere, which means when I go check into my hotel room, I can maybe stream some stuff there.
FELLOWS: Or if I’m in a WiFi hotspot, I can get access to certain programming. But with T-Mobile, suddenly the “anywhere” takes on a new meaning, which is, yeah, it’s in your hotel room, and it’s in the corridor outside your hotel room, and --
MAXWELL: And your car.
FELLOWS: -- in your car. It’s on your airplane, you know, it’s anywhere. Literally. I fought the kids -- I’m known, by the way, at my company, one of the 30 under-30s named me “The FOG,” which is the “fat old guy.” (laughs) I went to them and I said, “All right, we’re going to come up with programming that comes out this thing [holds up a smartphone].” “What, are you guys crazy? Have you seen my man cave? Have you seen the big screen TV? Are you going to watch Monday Night Football on this? You crazy?” They go, “OK, Dave, let’s take you. Man cave at home?” “Got a man cave.” “How much video do you watch a week in there?” I go, “Well, I spend a lot of time on the road.” “Video?” I said, “Well, Big Bang Theory, Young Sheldon, and in a good week, NCIS.” I go, “Great, two hours a week.” “Flew out here to Denver yesterday?” “Sure did.” “Got on a United flight?” I said, “Absolutely.” “So what did you do?”
MAXWELL: Got the WiFi.
FELLOWS: “I pulled this out, I fired up WiFi, put on headphones, and I watched four hours of video on the way out here. OK, and three hours tomorrow on the way home. So seven hours a week on this device, and two hours a week on the big screen.” “You’re already one of us, Dave, and you don’t even understand that you are.” I said, “Holy mackerel, you’re right.” So that gets back to any device. Where, and again, we cable guys are pretty snobby about big screen TVs, and 4K and HDR, and all the new technologies. But the world is becoming -- it’s whatever device is convenient. If I pull out an iPad on the United flight, I’ll get a screen about yea big, it’s a little bit better, except if you get good voice -- you know, that’s another secret we’ve known in the cable world.
MAXWELL: That’s right.
FELLOWS: Good audio makes up for a lot of defects in video.
FELLOWS: So we’re working on this any device, anywhere. Of course anytime is VOD, you know? The world is going to become -- this is another one of those visionary things that I’ve known for 20 years, but it takes a while for you didn’t want to bet the ranch 20 years ago. But OK, NCIS, next Tuesday, 8:00. Of course, my grandkids have no concept of Tuesday at 8:00 something comes on.
MAXWELL: No. Or a TV guide, for that matter.
FELLOWS: Or a TV guide, no. They just -- they want to watch My Favorite Pony, and boom, there it is. You pick an episode you haven’t watched, and you watch it. So the new definition is going to be, OK, NCIS starts to be available next Tuesday at 8:00 with a new episode. But then at 9:00 it’s on demand, or you’ve DVR’d it, or you can pull it off a system, or you can do lookback, all of these --
MAXWELL: A dozen different ways now.
FELLOWS: Yeah. It all becomes one. I was looking, of all things, I was looking at a CTO panel I was on 12 years ago. Leslie Ellis was trying to trick me into admitting that switched digital video, which was a standalone, isolated system, switched digital video -- are you for or against? Are you going to launch it? Or you’re going to not launch it, and you’re going to squash an entire new, budding industry? I said, “Well, look, Leslie, we’re going to launch switched digital video. It may or not be on a standalone system, because here’s my view of the world: Video shows up linear at 8:00, if you tune in for the next hour with lookback, you’ve stored it. Actually, for a few seconds, you can pause live TV.”
FELLOWS: “Let’s start with, OK, it’s available at 8:00, you can pause live TV. You’ve got lookback. If I watch it because the customer presses a button, it’s called Video DVR, if you watch it later because the company pushed the button, that’s called VOD. Then you’re inside a Nielsen window and you’re outside a Nielsen window, and that has to do with monkeying with ads as such.”
MAXWELL: Yeah, three to seven days. And other ridiculous ideas.
FELLOWS: Yes. And I said, you know, “All of that is one system. The video shows up, it gets ingested into this thing that stores it, then serves it up to the customer. Again, you go back to any device.” So the programming world is coming to grips with that.
FELLOWS: Slowly. That’s why 20 years ago, you knew it was going to happen, but it’s taken a while. But spurred on by Netflix suddenly, HBO Go.
MAXWELL: Well, T-Mobile was early in the wonderful net neutrality workaround by cutting a deal with Netflix for its customers.
MAXWELL: Which is a beautiful move, by the way, when they did it.
FELLOWS: They did a couple of things. One was called “rated services,” or some name like that.
MAXWELL: Something like that, yeah.
FELLOWS: Where certain content you can watch for free.
FELLOWS: It doesn’t count against your byte cap. But other content does. You know, AT&T tried to present its content as being rated, and nobody else’s. Everybody else was under the byte cap. They weren’t -- T-Mobile, there’s a first genius move, said, OK, we’re going to publish a set of specs for video, which is, it’s only 420. You’re not trying to put 4K video to a wireless device that can’t use it. Any video in the world that qualifies under this spec will get zero-rated. That’s the word, “zero-rated” --
MAXWELL: That’s right.
FELLOWS: -- on our system. Suddenly, T-Mobile customers, again mostly millennials, or younger customers, are suddenly consuming a bunch of content. Netflix met those specs. It’s one of the ones. But Amazon Prime and Hulu and all sort of some of those over-the-top things that all merged together. You know, and the idea is -- going to go back to NCIS. You search for NCIS. Well, the cable approach is, next Tuesday, 8:00, here’s 10 episodes on demand and 3 episodes on your DVR. All right, well, let’s take the first extension. OK, and this entire season, it’s CBS.com. The first 17 seasons at Netflix.
FELLOWS: And here’s a YouTube of every time Gibbs gives a slap someone on the side of the head.
MAXWELL: Right. (laughs)
FELLOWS: And every Halloween costume that Abby has worn. And here’s the Twitter feed that’s associated with people that are watching this episode. Again, electronically, you can pair those things together.
FELLOWS: You know, if the Twitter feed drives you nuts, you turn it off. But any content, anytime, anywhere, on any device.
MAXWELL: And it’s happening.
FELLOWS: And it’s happening. It’s slow, but it will happen. And we’ll figure out a way to make money. I mean, that’s
MAXWELL: Oh, yeah. What do you call that? You know, you talk about a series airs.
FELLOWS: Well, you saw in the over-the-top world, sometimes it would release an entire season at once.
MAXWELL: Right, so you can binge watch.
FELLOWS: And so on day one, you can spend the next 24 hours binge watching it, and then you’re done until a year from now.
FELLOWS: This was all figuring out how customers want to consume the video. And we’ll try different ways and different devices, and different ways of discovering it, you know, discovering the content that you want to watch. All of that is sort of the tricky sauce to make it work.
MAXWELL: Very tricky. It’s hard to sell something that people can’t find.
FELLOWS: Well, one of the things we’re discovering is, you sort of have to give them the experience. Then -- you know, it’s back where you read about Steve Jobs. He’d come up with things that, wait a minute, this didn’t come out of a focus group, right. The focus group didn’t know to ask for this.
FELLOWS: He had a vision that he would occasionally hear, we’ve got to have a vision, and then put it out there and then learn. Let me go back to -- Continental Cablevision, we’ve launched high-speed data. So the telephone guys come in and acquire us. So the telephone traffic department shows up in my office in Boston. They go, all right, try to model this internet thing. I said, Good luck! They said, all right --
MAXWELL: That’s a good point.
FELLOWS: Yeah. They said, all right. So how many customers are going to buy this service? I said, “I have no idea.” I said, “I can give you the specs, it’s, like, about 20 percent have computers, but I have no idea.” OK.
MAXWELL: Yeah, we didn’t have good data about that then.
FELLOWS: Yeah. OK, for the people that buy it, how many are going to be doing something at the peak busy hour? “I have no idea.” OK, when they’re doing something at the peak busy hour, what is it they’re doing, and how many bits does it take? “I’ve got no idea.” I go, “Wait a minute, you’ve got no idea of the penetration, the bit rate, the acceptance -- how can you, in good conscience, launch a service with no engineering underneath it?” Said, “We’ll learn. I’m watching like a hawk.” You know, we’ll divide the nodes. We’ll create more bandwidth. We’ll launch a second 6-megahertz channel, if that’s what’s needed.
MAXWELL: That’s kind of how it happened.
FELLOWS: Again, in 1993, that 10-megabit-per-second port often didn’t exist on the computer, so we had to show up with a NIC card.
MAXWELL: Right. That’s right.
FELLOWS: Network Interface Card. I hate it when [the C stands for Card, so a Network Interface Card
Card] -- a NIC card. And that NIC card could -- it’s 10 megabits per second, but the computer could only sort of suck in and spit out a couple of megabits per second.
MAXWELL: Right. Well, you know, I was part of Express that came out of TCI, really.
MAXWELL: That was just a one-way data.
MAXWELL: That demodulator we created had to work -- but it did on a Commodore, even, or on anything, really. But it didn’t work as a business. But we tried it.
FELLOWS: But the internet did wind up working.
FELLOWS: You know, at the same time, you know, so we go to Rouzbeh, these cable modems we’re using for the commercial business cost about $2,000 apiece. I said, “Rouzbeh, I can’t do that.”
MAXWELL: You can’t do that.
FELLOWS: “I can’t do that. I can’t put $2,000 in a home and never make any money.” He goes, “All right, Dave, I think with certain volumes and other assumptions, I can sell you the box for $200.” First, I was petrified that he was going to go out of business doing that.
MAXWELL: Right, because that would be risky.
FELLOWS: Yeah. An entire order of magnitude.
FELLOWS: But eventually he convinced me he could do it. So we launched --
MAXWELL: So you gave him an order.
FELLOWS: We launched -- I gave him an order and we launched a business around his $200 modem. So then I go down to my buddies at Scientific Atlanta, so Michael Harney is there. He’s saying, “Why won’t you pay me $200 for a digital set top box?” I said, “I can’t afford it.” He said, “But you’re paying $200 for the cable modem, and in a digital box, I’ve got to put the equivalent of a cable modem in, and all of this video processing.” I said, “I understand. I feel your pain. But without a business, I can put a $200 box into a home and I can get another $50 to $60 a month out of it.”
MAXWELL: A month. Bigger than I can get out of it -- right.
FELLOWS: And a huge smile on the customer’s face.
FELLOWS: “And I can’t do that -- we’re already paying 80 bucks at the time or so for video, analog video. I can’t charge $150 for digital video. They don’t see the difference.” So I don’t know, that was good. So fiber optics, the Triple Play at Comcast has now become a different kind of Triple Play with T-Mobile. And by the way, also at Comcast. The X1 started out as a walled garden. Now Netflix has --
MAXWELL: Right. Everything in it, right.
FELLOWS: -- recently Prime is coming in.
FELLOWS: And YouTube is on there.
MAXWELL: So what do we call the business?
MAXWELL: Hmm, doesn’t tell you anything. That is cable’s old mistake. You just name it after something that’s material, you know? It’s not conceptual naming.
FELLOWS: Like DOCSIS?
MAXWELL: Yeah. Like that.
FELLOWS: We engineers that came up with “DOCSIS” begged CTAM or marketing, or anybody out there, come up with a better name for it.
MAXWELL: Well, NCTA is trying, and they have one. But --
FELLOWS: Yeah, well, we’ll see. The industry is changing. It continues to.
MAXWELL: Right. It has to. Well, it’s all bits, in one sense. How you can deliver them economically and robustly, you win.
MAXWELL: Seems to be the thing.
FELLOWS: But I’ll go back to that thing. It is all bits.
FELLOWS: So someone says, OK, dumb pipe. You know, you’re now a utility, Comcast or cable, or wireless. You’re a dumb pipe. Just get out of our way and deliver dumb bits. Well, now remember I said that the metadata is more important than the data?
MAXWELL: More important than the right, yeah.
FELLOWS: The bits are just the data.
FELLOWS: Oh, sorry. That’s the easy part, is delivering the bits.
MAXWELL: Then monetizing --
FELLOWS: Finding the bits and directing them, intelligently managing them, and prioritizing the right bits.
FELLOWS: That’s the part of the trick that will still allow people to make money.
MAXWELL: I think that’s absolutely correct. It just will. So you look at the different business structures that have grown up around the changes, I mean, Comcast, to its credit, bought NBC at a nice rate, or a nice timing. They have the only model that gets close to the size of a Facebook or a Google, or, well, they’re bigger than Twitter. But that can play against them, so to speak. AT&T is trying to replicate that.
MAXWELL: And has done so, pending the next decision out of the Department of Justice -- or out of the three-judge panel that’s paying attention to them at the moment.
FELLOWS: Yeah. We’ll see if the appeal works.
FELLOWS: You know, so my little company, T-Mobile, is trying to merge with Sprint.
FELLOWS: If we do from a market cap viewpoint, we’re taking companies number five and six and creating number five.
MAXWELL: Five. Right.
FELLOWS: Charter, Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon.
MAXWELL: That is exactly how I think about it.
FELLOWS: So we’re trying to get that kind of scale. Now with Comcast, you know, I’ll weigh --. Again, my entire life -- and it’s still true today -- I’m just the plumber. I’m down in the basement hooking broadband pipes together. Suddenly it’s a data pipe and a video pipe. And look, they actually fit together.
MAXWELL: They fit together, right.
FELLOWS: So I don’t opine on any of this. But I know that one of the things that Comcast wanted out of acquiring NBC Universal was to try out different business models.
FELLOWS: OK, let’s try the same day a movie is released in the movie theater having it for sale on pay-per-view on 4K, my man cave screen, for $100. Pick a crazy number, but maybe it’s worth it for me not to go and listen to other people talk and eat overpriced popcorn, and see if that works. Well, they haven’t been able to do that.
FELLOWS: The same infrastructure that targets ads where the cable company, the service provider, has avails and is able to target, insert ads and target, cable can insert ads for broadcast companies and get the higher targeted rates, and share that money. There’s now some extra money coming in. Let’s share it with the broadcaster and share it with the cable company. Comcast has been able to do a little bit of that, with the owned and operated NBC stations. But, you know, just like we said, it takes a long time to do these things.
MAXWELL: It does.
FELLOWS: I know 15 years ago what the vision was for some of that. And Steve Burke was going to get it done overnight.
MAXWELL: I know. I remember talking with him about that.
FELLOWS: And, you know, it’s getting done, getting there. The walled gardens are coming down.
MAXWELL: They certainly are.
FELLOWS: If you’re coming from the Comcast viewpoint, in an orderly fashion, so that 200,000 apps don’t suddenly show up on your set top box and everything crashes. It takes a long time.
MAXWELL: Right. Well, they’ve had a lot of progress in the home --
MAXWELL: -- with what they deliver in the home. I mean, I put a new roof on this year, and there were a lot of dishes on top, all the way back to GTE and HughesNet.
MAXWELL: Right, because I live in a rather remote area, which is built up around me. But now it’s, you know, Comcast has actually delivering an interesting product in the home with voice activation. They figured out how to get around a guide that way.
FELLOWS: Yes. But here’s the difference between at least me or my little company. T-Mobile, I’m not so little. But pretend I’m a little company. Comcast, I go into the home, I provide the remote, you hit the button and you give the command. You’re in control of that experience. All right, I come in and say, all right, first of all, you’ve still got to find a remote. You know, which cushion in the couch is it underneath?
FELLOWS: Then you’ve got to hit a button. My customers have Alexa and they have Google Home.
FELLOWS: I want to integrate with the rest of their lives, so you just walk into the room and say, “Alexa, tell Layer3 TV” or, “Tell T-Mobile TV to” --
MAXWELL: Or even tell Comcast, David. I mean, everybody’s coming to the same conclusion, to make ease in the home.
FELLOWS: Yeah. See, we still -- and it’s true of T-Mobile, it’s one of the reasons our companies fit well together, is we both try to put the customer at the center of the universe. If they’ve got a preference, iOS or Android [pulls out two smartphones; one iOS and one Android], if they have a preference, Google or Amazon, or if they have a preference. At the moment, we’re feeding them Netflix, but you know, if they want to get to other things --
MAXWELL: Why not?
FELLOWS: Why not. We offer them the choice, and we’ll integrate. Now, it’s a big integration job, but you also don’t have to do all the work yourself.
MAXWELL: That’s a point. That’s a good point.
FELLOWS: That’s one of the reasons that with a couple of hundred employees, we can compete with thousands doing the X1, because we rely on suppliers. We rely on other ecosystems. We don’t re-invent everything from scratch.
MAXWELL: But what’s next? What’s the industry going to look like in that 20-year timespan you’re talking about, thinking ahead before?
FELLOWS: Well, I mean, I think we are down to the order of -- I’m hoping it’s five and not four -- whatever these companies are; broadband, telecommunications, you know. T Mobile has agreed to spend 40 -- four zero -- billion dollars --
MAXWELL: Billion, I know.
FELLOWS: -- on 5G.
MAXWELL: What’s Sprint’s budget?
FELLOWS: Well, that’s with --
MAXWELL: With -- and Sprint combined, right? That’s what I was thinking.
FELLOWS: If we’re allowed to combine, then we’ll use some of the synergies.
FELLOWS: Which actually don’t come from firing people. Normally “synergies” is a word for, I’ve got fifty thousand employees at T-Mobile --
MAXWELL: I know it. Just ask Verizon, which just did that.
FELLOWS: Another ten thousand this week. Not to date this conversation. But we’re going to have more people, because we wind up with more stores. We’re in more parts of the country, we wireless guys. So there’s going to be something like five big companies. I think that all of the content owners will try these models of going around people; HBO Go, directly to the customer. You know, the one that’s been very successful at it, of course, is Netflix, directly to the customer.
FELLOWS: But I think more and more customers are going to want this unified view of, again, NCIS, they’re going to want all the sources of NCIS identified together and presented
MAXWELL: And easy to access.
FELLOWS: Yes. I mean, one of the things we aspire to is my “mother’s sports channel.” You know, does she watch ESPN? Good God, no. She has no affinity for that. That’s a lousy male-dominated sports thing. On the other hand, UConn Women’s Basketball? She will watch every single game. So iPad, teacher her how to use the Comcast app and hit the button. ESPN3, and do the search, and at age -- in her nineties, she sits and consumes that. Well, wouldn’t it be nice if she could turn on the big TV and just hit “mom’s sports channel,” and the system knows, OK, if there’s a UConn Women’s Basketball game, that’s what she wants. And if it’s in the last 23 hours, that’s what she wants, she missed it last night and she wants to watch it today. That will all be -- I mean, it is all possible today.
MAXWELL: Well, ad tracking does that on whatever you bought yesterday, shows up on your computer the next morning.
FELLOWS: That’s right.
MAXWELL: So that technology exists.
FELLOWS: Yeah. They’re usually one step behind me.
FELLOWS: I bought something, and I’m still getting the ads for it. But they’ll figure that part out also.
MAXWELL: Out soon. Yeah.
FELLOWS: I think that again, these cell phones, these smartphones, become another consuming mechanism. They become part remote control, part voice. I mean, if you want to go into a room and pull something out and speak into it, why not a smartphone, rather than look for the remote?
MAXWELL: Right. Yeah. Or Alexa sitting in the middle of the room, yeah.
FELLOWS: I think that these things continue to converge, again, with the customer. Affirmably, the customer in the center of the universe. Maybe there’s room for people that bridge universes. You know? Some of my stuff will be on Bluetooth and some of it will be on --
MAXWELL: Well, the growth of WiFi tells you that portability is critical.
FELLOWS: Yeah, and --
MAXWELL: Having the system recognize you --
FELLOWS: It’s gotten cheap enough in the home that a lot of devices, especially cameras and doorbells and things, they all chose WiFi, because it exists. But when -- you know, I’ll make an analogy here. With DOCSIS 3.0/3.1, what we did was, we took a whole bunch of 6 megahertz channels and we bonded them altogether to form one big mother pipe. 5G, part of what 5G does is, it bonds all kinds of slices of spectrum together to form one big mother pipe. So it’ll bond 600 megahertz, 700 megahertz, traditional microwave -- cellular at 900 megahertz. It’ll go rob some citizens band radio frequencies. It’ll go rob your WiFi 2.4, rob your WiFi 5.0, and then on up into millimeter wave. It’ll just see what gets through. It won’t tromp, in theory, on anything else that’s already there, if I’m making a call.
MAXWELL: In theory, right, yeah.
FELLOWS: Yeah. That’s how you get in 5G, the big honking pipe together.
FELLOWS: Same kind of thing, as in DOCSIS. I know customers hope that there is competition between both them. Again, visionary statement here -- it’s going to be fiber deep into a neighborhood, and then either fiber to the home, Fios and its cousins, coax to the home, DOCSIS 3.1, and maybe symmetric DOCSIS 3.1. Or it’ll be 5G. Again, a few hundred yards, not even the last mile now. We’re talking about the last quarter mile.
FELLOWS: But when that happens, and does it happen everywhere? Does it happen evenly?
MAXWELL: We can’t --
FELLOWS: Are there digital haves and digital have nots? Yeah.
MAXWELL: -- things can’t be that, yeah.
FELLOWS: That’s all fun. And it is going to be next year? No.
MAXWELL: No. It’s going to be density-driven in the deployment. Has to be, actually. No other way to get the return on it fast enough.
FELLOWS: That’s right. And if you want symmetric DOCSIS, it’s got to be N plus zero, as it’s called, the fiber node and no amplifiers. So that limits the number of homes you can serve out of that fiber node.
MAXWELL: So it would get tighter and tighter.
FELLOWS: Yes. More and more fiber.
MAXWELL: Right. So the CommScopes still going to make a lot of money.
FELLOWS: CommScope will make money through ARRIS on fiber and fiber nodes. And through its own, it’s got a wide range of 5G product --
MAXWELL: I know it does, yes.
FELLOWS: Backhaul in and out of the neighborhood. So yeah, there’s still a “little” future --
MAXWELL: So there’s future in all these businesses.
FELLOWS: There is, but you wind up with future at scale. Same way why a hundred phone companies and a hundred cable companies are down to two and two.
MAXWELL: Same reasons, right.
FELLOWS: Then this wireless upstart. And video and voice and data cross all of these pipes, wireless or wired, or fiber all comes together.
MAXWELL: So even augmented reality and full virtual reality, and --
FELLOWS: You know, we’ll see where that goes. I’m, you know, personally, I’m a little bit dyslexic, and the 3D viewing, I wind up sort of with a headache.
MAXWELL: Yeah, exactly.
FELLOWS: If the cameras aren’t quite exactly as wide as my eyeballs are, and that didn’t work out. Virtual reality, I don’t know. The Holodeck on the Enterprise, don’t know. Augmented reality, I think a real possibility, where you’re in a museum, now you’ve got the little earphone you listen to. But if you have a headset where you look at this painting, and it suddenly points to pieces on the painting you should pay attention to, here’s where the artist stuck himself in the background. That sounds exciting to me. Again, another way to be entertained and to learn, and to communicate, and we’ll see about this governed bullet point on my slides.
MAXWELL: I think we will. Thanks. I think it wraps up rather nicely. Do you got anything you want to add?
FELLOWS: No. Just been, you know -- well, OK, two things.
FELLOWS: To the extent that I’ve ever said that I did anything here, it was absolutely my team, and I happened to be there and observing DOCSIS and hybrid fiber coax and fiber optics, and the Triple Play. Secondly, I’ve discovered as I chat with people my age who lived through it, we all, looking at the elephant, we all had different views on what happened, you know? But I think we all agree, boy, what a great ride, and what a great time to be part of this industry.
MAXWELL: I couldn’t agree more about that. So Dave, you were talking about something called “channel bonding.”
FELLOWS: We were talking about DOCSIS. We started with DOCSIS 1.0, which was just getting an agreement amongst the industry on the standard. We used some consultants out of A. D. Little, and then eventually CableLabs to propose a standard that actually stuck.
FELLOWS: Manufacturers, multiple manufactures, manufactured to it. Then we had DOCSIS 2.0, which was an improvement, improvement in security and so forth. All those were an outshoot of something called “MCNS,” which was an effort by the industry, and the industry was TCI, Time Warner, Cox and Comcast. Those four companies were trying to invent a conditional access system that they owned, so that we didn’t have to choose between GI [General Instrument] and SA [Scientific Atlanta]. It wound up not going anywhere, but there was this vehicle. So when they saw this success of this internet, they said, well, let’s use this funding vehicle to create a standard. They asked Rogers in Canada and Continental Cablevision to sort of join in, so there were six of us together. What happened is, we got a chip company called Broadcom in the room along with Cisco, along with LanCity, Rouzbeh’s original, because we figured that technology was sort of the -- we’d found the foundation of that. So John Chapman was from Cisco. At the time it was Tom Quigley, now it’s Cathleen Thomas Quigley, from Broadcom. Gerry White was Rouzbeh’s, LanCity’s, representative, and a woman from TCI, Michelle Kuska, sort of rode herd on those three guys. That’s where DOCSIS 1.0 and 2.0 came out. Then we realized that this 10-ish megabits, or even 40 megabits per second, which was the size of the pipe in a 6-megahertz slot, wasn’t enough. So we had the idea of combining various 6 megahertz slots, various 40-megabit pipes altogether. Well, OK, how are you going to do that? How are you going to bond it? How are you going to, at the headend, separate it out into the various channels, and then the cable modem combine them? And there, Cathleen Quigley, as I said Tom at the time, John Chapman and I sat in a room, and we banged out how the 3.0 standard was going to be different.
MAXWELL: You’re thinking where the different 6 megahertz channels within the pipe were going to come together?
FELLOWS: Were going to come together. Because also remember now, in that first 6 megahertz slice, there would be a lot of legacy, DOCSIS 1.0 and 2.0 traffic.
MAXWELL: Oh, that’s right.
FELLOWS: So if you just tried to take the bits and divide them evenly into all the pipes and then combine them together, well, this pipe would get overloaded. So we had to take the same way that we dole out bandwidth in the one pipe, we extended that. Again, “we” is Cathleen and John Chapman. We extended that across all of the pipes so that the new stuff would occupy largely the new frequencies, and the legacy stuff could -- and it all co-existed.
MAXWELL: Well, there’s always that problem of, how are you going to build this? Where are you going to build? Who’s going to buy it? Who’s going to distribute it first? Who’s going to test it? Who’s going to do all those different things. Then aim for scale, which takes time.
FELLOWS: Right. But now, you know, we got --
MAXWELL: That solved the problem.
FELLOWS: -- Rouzbeh’s $200 cable modem, we got down to roughly $20 or so now, with this bonding and multiple channels to start with, you brute force had multiple tuners. But now these tuners are all digital devices. Again, my background 40 years ago, you’d digitize the entire gigahertz of bandwidth, and then digitally extract all the various channels, however many there are. That sort of one device, one extractor for maybe up to 30 or 40 6-megahertz channels. So credit first to Cisco, Broadcom and LanCity for lending us their experts, and believing in creating that volume, even though they may or may not -- you know, Cisco was going to not get the bulk of the cable modem business. But they did get the bulk of the CMTS [cable modem termination system] business.
MAXWELL: Right. They did.
FELLOWS: They made money. Everybody made money, and customers happy.
MAXWELL: That’s no small achievement.
MAXWELL: That’s a hell of a narrative we just heard, and I appreciate that. So thank you very much.
FELLOWS: Thank you.
MAXWELL: This is Paul Maxwell with David Fellows from the Cable Center, talking about how in the hell this stuff all works.
END OF INTERVIEW