Broadband services over cable and satellite might be called the Great Wide Hope. Interactive television, video-on-demand, distance learning, high-speed Internet and digital telephone service are among the services coming soon through cable and satellites.
Since passage of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 — intended to promote competition and investment in the telecom market — the cable industry has spent more than $45 billion for upgrades that make delivery of advanced, two-way services possible. The industry currently serves more than 10 million digital cable customers, 4 million cable modem customers and 1 million cable phone customers.
Among cables fiercest competitors are the satellite broadcasters such as EchoStar Communications Dish Network and wild card DirecTV. If General Motors succeeds in spinning off its Hughes subsidiary, DirecTV could part ways with parent Hughes and join Rupert Murdochs British Sky Broadcasting satellite business to create a dominant position worldwide.
To defend their turf, the cable giants are packing pipelines with services designed to boost earnings for every home and business passed. Several companies are considering selling second home lines that would face less stringent regulatory demands than primary lines.
On the entertainment side, AT&T, Comcast, Cox Communications and Time Warner Entertainment are moving toward delivering video-on-demand as they overcome technical and marketing hurdles. And after years of delay, true interactive TV could develop on the heels of video-on-demand, finally delivering the convergence of TV, telephone and Internet that has tantalized the titans of media.