Cable net in need of better use

  Scholars urged the country to better exploit its huge cable network to build a cheaper yet more efficient online "information home" for its people.

  While the Internet is playing an ever more important role in people's lives, Internet surfers are suffering from online traffic jams that have the gloomy prospect of becoming graver unless the band can be effectively broadened.

  But broadening the band means tremendous investments as well as time for patience.

  Therefore, why not better exploit an existent information highway - the cable network - which is already sufficient, He Dongcai, vice-president of the China Radio and Television Society, suggested yesterday at the 2001 China Data Forum.

  Jointly held by the society and Tsinghua University, the forum focused on the application of data technology.

  Over 1,500 officials in radio and television, science and education as well as renowned domestic and foreign information technology providers, attended the one-day discussion.

  According to He, China already has the world's largest cable user population, and the country vowed in its 10th Five-Year Plan (2001-05) to further expand the number of users.

  By the year 2005, 40 per cent of the country's households, roughly 150 million, should be connected to the cable network.

  The five-year plan also stipulates that the cable network must be integrated with the other two major networks, the telecoms and the computer networks, to construct a cheaper yet more efficient information highway affordable to more Chinese people.

  More than 250 local cable television stations are developing systems to provide their users with more information, programmes, entertainment and education besides the normal two to four sets of daily cable TV programmes.

  "Most of us have realized that our cable network still has a great deal of spare capacity that needs to be better exploited, and the delay in the work is a grave waste," said He.

  Hu Dongchen, vice-president of Tsinghua University, said cable television stations will become the leading provider of distance education in the future.

  Many well-known primary schools, high schools and universities in China already have their own distance-learning facilities, and Tsinghua University will soon grant the country's first Masters to students using this non-traditional method of study.

  In a recent experiment conducted by the university in Qingdao, Shandong Province, cable users with computers only needed to pay about 40 yuan (US$4.80) for the month to receive distance education from the university and read Internet magazines compiled by the local cable television station.

  The average cost in using the Internet every month is more than 100 yuan (US$12.1).


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