Friday, November 19, 2010


AT&T is about to “go live” on a really cool service called U-verse. For the past couple of years, AT&T has invested heavily in installing refrigerator-sized utility cabinets in various locations all over north Alabama, including the Shoals. These boxes are connected to each other via an ultra-high speed fiber optic network. These boxes convert vast amounts of data that is sent to you through the plain old telephone line connected to your house. When it’s all said and done, your phone, television and high speed internet share the same computer network and all of it is delivered for “one low monthly fee.” The service is supposed to cover very large swaths of the population all across north Alabama but AT&T is being secretive about exactly who will get it. However, I have an informed source close to the technical end of this service and he assures me that the service is “live” right now in certain areas of the Shoals. Other areas (including my neighborhood, woo hoo!) should go live by the end of the year, according to my spy. He says that even rural customers will eventually be served. Users will be able to purchase each service separately (phone, internet, TV) or purchase bundles that include everything. Prices for the whole enchilada appear to be from $100 to $150 per month.

This is how it works: Each TV in your home is hooked up to a set-top box (receiver). Your high speed Internet connection coming from your phone line is plugged into the set-top boxes. The set-top box assembles transmissions from your phone line into video and audio signals that are broadcast in both standard and high definition. Their high speed internet should be up to 6 times faster than the fastest DSL service currently offered. The phone service will come with some cool new features, too.

There is a lot to like about the service but their TV service is what gets my inner geek fidgeting with excitement. The Digital Video Recorder supplied with the service allows you to record up to 4 shows at a time and allows playback to any TV in the house. To the viewer, the TV service looks just like any high definition channel from cable and satellite providers. But behind the scenes, what you are actually watching is TV delivered directly from the internet. What appears to be a simple “channel” to the viewer is actually coming to you from an IP address (it’s actually called “ipTV”) in much the same way that a website is delivered to your computer screen. In the future, you’ll be able to interact with your TV in some really cool ways such as voting for your favorite performer using your remote, purchasing a product or service directly from the commercial you are viewing and much more. In other words, what we are seeing is essentially a triune of TV, phone and computer/internet technology. In a few years, your TV will be your computer and your computer will be your TV.

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