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Road Runner cable Internet info

technofile  by al fasoldt

Columns and commentaries in a life-long dance with technology

Simple gray rule

Road Runner cable Internet information

May 19, 1997

This is a document distributed by a Time Warner cable outlet in Florida explaining the Road Runner Internet-access service that is being offered there later this year. Time Warner will be doing the same in the Syracuse area, and this may help shed light on what will be offered locally.

1. Q. What is Road Runner?


1. A. Road Runner is a broadband online high-speed cable service developed by the Excalibur Group, a joint venture between Time Warner Cable and Time Inc. Utilizing broadband cable networks and high-speed cable modems, this new service provides customers with the unique opportunity to connect, at unparalleled speeds, to community resources such as newspapers, libraries and government offices; explore a wide range of entertainment and information services; access the Internet and existing online locations such as Time Warner's "mega-site," Pathfinder; take advantage of e-mail, and use and access other online services.


2. Q. What distinguishes Road Runner from other online services?


2. A. The Road Runner service uses the most advanced cutting-edge technology as its platform, enabling it to deliver its multimedia and interactive applications at incredible speeds. In addition, it has five distinct pillars of strength: friendly, practical and relevant local content; rich, diverse national content; cohesively packaged third party content; topical and ongoing marketing, promotion and public relations, and sophisticated, comprehensive and flexible infrastructure.


Road Runner is distributed by local cable systems and national content is seamlessly integrated with community product. Although each community will have distinctive sites that reflect its own profile, common community elements include local continuously updated weather reports and local news, access to the school system, the local library, local government and local civic groups.


3. Q. Why is Time Warner uniquely positioned to provide this type of service?


3. A. Time Warner, the world's leading media and entertainment company encompasses the richest sources of information and entertainment in the world as well as technological leadership. Road Runner is a collaborative effort that draws upon the sophisticated technological expertise of Time Warner Cable, the vast journalistic resources of Time Inc. and CNN, and the unrivaled creative talents of Warner Bros.


Time Inc.'s and CNN's vast libraries and preeminent journalist staff provide Road Runner with an array of information, news and entertainment resources that is incomparable. In addition to CNN this includes Pathfinder, Time Warner's home on the World Wide Web, which provides text, photos, graphics, audio and video from Time, Sports Illustrated, Money, People, Life, Fortune, Vibe, Entertainment Weekly, Sunset, and Southern Living.


4. Q. Why has Time Warner created Road Runner?


4. A. Time Warner is proud to be among the first to have commercially launched an online cable service. It provides residential customers with new ways to easily access interactive information, entertainment and news, and will provide businesses and organizations with comprehensive, flexible, customized solutions to their communications needs. It moves Time Warner into a new business area providing new outlets for its creative product and new revenue opportunities. These opportunities include: monthly subscription revenue, including ancillary subscriber services like roam (dial-in) personal home pages; advertising; business connectivity, including work at home and private networking; content partnering (revenue sharing of fees and transactions), and infrastructure services such as caching, direct connect and web hosting.


5. Q. Where will Road Runner be available?


5. A. Road Runner will be introduced in a limited number of homes in the areas of Carrollwood, Temple Terrace, Brandon (Hillsborough County) and Countryside and Palm Harbor (Pinellas County). Final details will be released to affected homes as the launch date approaches and the initial phase should be complete by the end of 1997. Time Warner's web site will be updated in the future to include additional information about new launch areas. The roll out to other areas served by Time Warner will be gradual and should be complete within several years.


A national roll out of Road Runner throughout the Time Warner Cable systems and other MSO's will depend on a number of factors: cable modem availability, each system's upgrade to a hybrid fiber/coaxial infrastructure, and the market for high-speed data services within the network's service area. Each of these factors are impacted by other factors, some beyond the control of Time Warner Cable. No fixed timetable can be announced at this time. The intent is to bring it to all systems but this will take time.


6. Q. Why was Tampa Bay selected to be one the first major metropolitan areas to receive Road Runner?


6. A. The Tampa Bay division was selected by Time Warner to be the first major city to receive this new service because the network meets the essential criteria for a successful deployment, namely:


•The cable network has been upgraded to a fiber/coaxial plant. •The cable system has a very strong management team that is prepared to handle the additional responsibility of adding an online service to its programming offerings. •The Tampa area has one of the higher computer utilization rates in the nation.


7. Q. What will Road Runner cost and what does this include?


7. A. The cost of Road Runner will be consistent with prices established during earlier Road Runner deployments. They vary slightly from marketplace to marketplace; however, we anticipate Road Runner's price for the Tampa Bay area to be in the $39.95 to $49.95 range for residential customers. We will make our final pricing public at a later date.


8. Q. How does Road Runner work?


8. A. Instead of a computer modem hooked up to a local phone line, Road Runner customers will be provided with a high-speed cable modem that links their PC to the cable fiber-optic/coaxial network and server complex. Users can access local news, entertainment information and other local content from various computer servers throughout the area without the need for a telephone line. These servers also provide a gateway for Road Runner customers to connect to the Internet, at very high speeds.


9. Q. Is this the Internet? Is Road Runner an online service like AOL?


9. A. Road Runner provides unparalleled high-speed access to: (1) local content that is only available through Road Runner; (2) premium content from Time Warner's Pathfinder and additional third party content providers; and (3) the net. Customers will be able to "surf the net" and access everything that's publicly available on the Internet, including the World Wide Web.


10. Q. Will Road Runner customers be able to send & receive e-mail?


10. A. Yes. Each user will have a unique e-mail address that can be used to send/receive e-mail to/from anyone in the world using the Internet.


11. Q. Is the cable network fully capable of 2-way transmission?


11. A. Yes. Road Runner is only being deployed in areas where the plant has been fully upgraded to a hybrid fiber/coaxial cable network; 500 homes (or less) are fed by each fiber node, and there is an active return path. In addition, the cable system must put in place measurement and maintenance procedures to ensure the integrity of the forward and return paths. This maintenance includes sweeping and aligning the plant to eliminate trouble spots that could produce RF noise or leakage. Such maintenance is becoming a routine part of cable TV's HFC networks everywhere.


12. Q. Just how fast is Road Runner?


12. A. A number of factors determine the speed of the data as it goes from the cable company's servers to the customer's computer. The cable modem delivers up to 27 Mb/s over the network, but the device with the slowest throughput along this path determines the effective speed. Typically, this is the PC bus and/or video display. For example, a top-of-the-line Pentium will receive data in excess of 4 Mb/s. Road Runner can deliver up to 10 Mb/s to a computer through the 10base T Ethernet interface.


The upstream bandwidth (from the PC to the system) is up to 768 kb/s. Because users require far more bandwidth downstream (reading web pages, downloading files, etc.) than upstream (largely "mouse clicks" and file requests), the two directions can differ in bandwidth. Data bandwidth is shared from the neighborhood node to users in individual homes, so performance may vary depending on how many customers are actively using the system at any given time. The system has been designed to offer worst-case bandwidth exceeding that of ISDN service, and that assumes continuous, maximal usage by every Road Runner user in a neighborhood simultaneously.


As well as speed, Road Runner offers three great advantages over dialup data access: The connection is available immediately -- in contrast to dialup services that require lengthy initiation routines, it stays live indefinitely, as long as the customers like, with no hourly usage fees added to the base cost, and it does not tie up a phone line.


13. Q. How will multiple users impact on the speed of Road Runner?


13. A. Road Runner can operate up to a total of 27 Mb/s on a given sub network, with no noticeable impact with multiple users. After that point, as total bandwidth is allocated evenly among users, we will be monitoring for any impact on speed. Should the Road Runner business grow to the extent that there are more customers requesting service than the allocated bandwidth can accommodate, the cable operator will expand resources and open up another channel for the service.


14. Q. Is Road Runner the same as an ISDN?


14. A. No; it's much faster and significantly less expensive. In the limited areas where the telephone company currently provides ISDN service, a "2B&D channel" ISDN service transmits data at a maximum rate of 128 kb/sec.


15. Q. Is Road Runner "video on demand" for viewing movies, etc?


15. A. No. Only brief video will be built into Road Runner web pages at first -- probably not much more than 30 seconds. While the system can pump out digital video very fast, users' PCs have a limited ability to process it.

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