FCC Allows TV Transmission Through Telephone Lines
by James L. Morrison

[Note: This is a re-formatted manuscript that was originally published in On the Horizon, 1992, 1(3), 8-9. It is posted here with permission from Jossey Bass Publishers.]

The Federal Communications Commission has decided to allow telephone companies to carry television signals on phone lines. The new technology, which allows huge amounts of information to be transmitted instantly, will permit a variety of new services. This would make universal access to new, high-speed computer networks a reality. Currently, transmitting information contained in a single still from a color-television show through a standard telephone wire takes minutes. To deliver these services, standard copper wire used in the current telephone system will be replaced with fiber-optics cable. Although the fiber-optic cable initially installed is expected to deliver television signals, those same lines can provide nationwide linkage between higher education institutions. [Wilson, D. L. (1992, July 29). Host of new college services could follow plan to allow TV signals on phone lines. The Chronicle of Higher Education, pp. A13-14.]


President Clinton is pressing for a nationwide fiber-optic communications infrastructure. The FCC decision will render Clinton's plan much more cost-effective and will accelerate its implementation. Thus, colleges and universities will more easily share information and library holdings sooner than originally expected.

The fiber-optic infrastructure network will enable institutions to reach into any home or office that has telecommunications capabilities, thereby enabling a tremendous growth in distance learning and much greater potential for reaching populations who have difficulty attending traditional classes.

Because of the breakup of the Bell system, some areas in the U.S. have greater opportunities to take advantage of this technology than others. If your phone company is not installing the electronic equivalent to "on and off ramps" to the electronic superhighway, your institution could literally be bypassed.

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