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In Business
Thursday 8.30-9.00pm,
Sunday 9.30-10.00pm (rpt)
Programme details 
4 September 2008
Listen to this programme in full
Peter Day
Bring on the Bandwidth

An ever expanding Internet needs more and more bandwidth to provide the on demand services that users are demanding. But can the system cope? Peter Day asks the experts, including the writer George Gilder who has been predicting what is now happening for 20 years or more.
About this programme by Peter Day

It must be 15 years since I first went to see George Gilder, prophet of the Telecosm, at his farmhouse deep in the rolling Berkshire Hills in Massachusetts. In those days his daughter kept sheep, and their bells tinkled through the In Business interview I did with him about the coming of the Internet.

It was particularly memorable because afterwards his wife Nini invited us to stay for supper, and on the menu were fiddlehead ferns, the asparagus-like tops of bracken which are only edible during a few short weeks of spring, when they are quite delicious.

This summer, with the ferns fullgrown and out of season, I went back to see him again., and he is one of the contributors to this week’s In Business. Because nearly everything that George Gilder has been predicting about communications is now in the process of coming true.

George Gilder has had many insights about many different things, but perhaps the most striking is all about bandwidth.

He saw maybe 20 years ago, that what Moore’s Law predicted about the way computer power on a silicon chip was doubling every two years was roughly paralleled by the way bandwidth was getting cheaper and more abundant at an even faster speed.

Put the two together (in this thing called the telecosm) and an extravagant networked world was about to emerge and transform the way we live. In particular, he thought then and still thinks now, television is doomed.

Well, it’s been happening, and wherever you go in cyberspace, up will pop someone who will tell you that George Gilder is one of his or her prime inspirations.

Meanwhile, Mr Gilder has himself been having adventures.

During the dot com boom of the 1990s, he became a much followed newsletter writer, enthusing about starter companies who were going to benefit from all this convergence.

Shares in the companies he mentioned soared ... the Gilder effect it was called.

And he invested in his own recommendations, too.

At the height of the boom, George Gilder had a paper value of $200million. And then it was burst.

And his paper worth became negative equity... $10million worth, he says. He is still trying to pay it off.

But that in no way undermines George Gilder’s great perceptions about connectivity.

And if broadband connectivity had been universally available ten years earlier, then maybe the dot com bubble would not have burst quite as definitively as it did in 2000.

I have to report that the sheep (and the daughters) are now gone from home, replaced in the background of the latest interview by the mooing of a neighbouring farmer’s cows.

But it was another notable visit. After we left, the Gilders were going a few miles for his mother’s 90th birthday. She was celebrating by playing the piano, to accompany the cello of a neighbour, Yo-Yo Ma.


Trish Stone,

Tour Director, California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology, at the University of California at San Diego.

Professor Larry Smarr,
Director of the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology,, at the University of California at San Diego.

George Gilder,
Gilder Telecosm Forum, author of The Silicon Ey

Herb Scannell,
Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder, NextNewNetworks

Bob Lindsey,
Vice President, Operations, Velocix

Phill Robinson,
Chief Executive Officer, Velocix

Mark Anderson,
Chief Executive Officer, Strategic News Service

Gavin Patterson,
Chief Executive, BT Retail

Tony Bates,
Senior Vice President/General Manager, Service Provider Group, Cisco

Paul Saffo,
Technology forecaster,

About In Business

We try to make ear-grabbing programmes about the whole world of work, public and private, from vast corporations to modest volunteers.

In Business is all about change. New ways of work and new technologies are challenging most of the assumptions by which organisations have been run for the last 100 years. We try to report on ideas coming over the horizon, just before they start being talked about. We hope it is an exhilarating ride.
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