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U.S. Phone Companies Set Stage for Fiber to the Curb

The luckier homes and businesses could be offered all-optical connections early next year

4 min read

From almost the dawn of the Internet, phone and cable companies have been fighting for the hearts and minds of the savvier consumers all over the world. The key battleground is the so-called last-mile link to the home or business, where the phone companies have been pitting their digital subscriber lines (DSLs) against the cable providers' cable modems. In most places in the world, DSLs have been the more popular option, though in the United States, with its very large cable infrastructure, cable modems have had a distinct edge.

All along, however, the Holy Grail has been fiber to the curb--an all-optical link going right into homes or businesses and providing bandwidth and speed that just can't be beat. Now, three of the four U.S. regional Bell operating companies (RBOCs, or Baby Bells)--Verizon, BellSouth, and SBC--intend to start building such fiber-optic networks to the premises as early as the first quarter of 2004. Of the three companies, Verizon Communications Inc. (New York City) has by far the most ambitious plans: it says it intends to provide every home and business it serves with a fiber-optic connection during the next 10-15 years, at an estimated total cost of as much as US $40 billion.

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Deep Learning Could Bring the Concert Experience Home

The century-old quest for truly realistic sound production is finally paying off

12 min read
Image containing multiple aspects such as instruments and left and right open hands.
Stuart Bradford

Now that recorded sound has become ubiquitous, we hardly think about it. From our smartphones, smart speakers, TVs, radios, disc players, and car sound systems, it’s an enduring and enjoyable presence in our lives. In 2017, a survey by the polling firm Nielsen suggested that some 90 percent of the U.S. population listens to music regularly and that, on average, they do so 32 hours per week.

Behind this free-flowing pleasure are enormous industries applying technology to the long-standing goal of reproducing sound with the greatest possible realism. From Edison’s phonograph and the horn speakers of the 1880s, successive generations of engineers in pursuit of this ideal invented and exploited countless technologies: triode vacuum tubes, dynamic loudspeakers, magnetic phonograph cartridges, solid-state amplifier circuits in scores of different topologies, electrostatic speakers, optical discs, stereo, and surround sound. And over the past five decades, digital technologies, like audio compression and streaming, have transformed the music industry.

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