World-Renowned Authority on Broadband and an Industry Visionary
This week, Stephen Ibaraki, I.S.P., has an exclusive interview
with Rouzbeh Yassini, a world-renowned authority on broadband and an
In 1998, CED Magazine named Rouzbeh Yassini its Man of the Year,
recognizing his contributions to the industry. He has been quoted in
numerous business and trade periodicals and newspapers and is a
frequent speaker at international conferences devoted to digital
services and the broadband infrastructure. Rouzbeh is the founder
and CEO of YAS Broadband Ventures LLC of Andover, Massachusetts, a
venture capital firm that provides capital financing, consulting
services, and academic insight into the broadband industry. In 1990,
he founded LANcity, which introduced the first high-speed
residential communications modem that was designed to integrate with
cable television networks. LANcity’s successful introduction spawned
a new consumer electronics technology category known as the cable
modem, which is used today in millions of households worldwide. He
has gained an international reputation as a broadband visionary and
has established cable modem technical standards through his support
of industry initiatives at Cable Television Laboratories, Inc.
Q: Rouzbeh, considering your constant time commitments worldwide,
we are honored to have you taking the time to do this interview.
A: It is my distinct privilege and honor to be with you and your
audience to share our vision of how technology can support a better
quality of life for everyone worldwide.
Q: You have a most remarkable history. Can you provide more
details about significant events that shaped your past to the
A: I came to the United States as a young man originally with the
intention of studying medicine. Thanks to a coincidence of events
and the influence of great teachers, I wound up pursuing a career in
electrical engineering and business management with GE and other
companies. I think, looking back, there was a pathway that I was
intended to travel – a way to contribute at least in some small way
to life on planet earth. After all, it’s the only planet we have. In
the last 30,000 years, neither the agricultural age or, more
recently, the industrial age, has managed to connect people across
the globe in a way that allows us to see each other, to communicate,
to exchange data instantaneously. Now in the information age, we
have a tool we can use to accomplish these things. Broadband is that
tool. It allows us to change things for the better by reducing our
dependency on oil and gas, by giving us instant access to
information, and to each other.
Q: As a leader, what lessons would you pass onto others?
A: I am fortunate to have had many heroes in the last 43 years
who have taught me the value of life, friendship and trust. I have
learned that making a contribution to society and mankind’s history
has far better reward than anything else in the world. I would like
to make sure the life of everyone is a better one after I have
entered in their space than before I got to know them. I also would
like them to make the life of the next person better, and so on.
Q: Can you share some stories of your experiences—both humorous
and thought provoking?
A: Humorous, yes. When I wanted to build this broadband vision in
1988 I approached 20 plus venture capitalists who all told me I was
out of my mind to try to build a global broadband pipe, and that I’d
better go do something small. As for thought-provoking, as we
pursued our broadband dream, no one believed we could take the next
step. We were challenged to build one cable modem, install it, and
prove that it worked. Then we were told we could not build 10 of
them. Then 100. Then 1,000. We got to one million cable modem users
in less than 10 years. It was the same negative thought process that
tried to tell us we couldn’t bring down the cost of a cable modem
from $15,000 to $35. We accomplished that feat, and we did it faster
than any other technology – even the computer.
Q: How has broadband developed and where do you see it
heading—two, five, and ten years? What are the major technologies
today and into the future?
A: Broadband is in its teenager stage. We shall see both superb
growth and also painful times in the next five years as this
technology becomes a household staple like the electricity and water
services everyone has. Our goal is to have one billion people
globally connected with this technology by 2013. Our vision is that
any consumer can access anything, anytime, anywhere. Our dream is to
concentrate on the technology part out of this medium, and to let
the services such as home security, medical care, energy management
and family services like electronic photo albums carry the dream. We
have built a global inter continental highway via broadband and we
are about to see what types of car, buses, motorcycles and other
innovations are about to use this highway above and beyond anyone’s
Q: What must business, academia, and government know about
broadband? Which technologies should they implement and for what
A: Broadband is an umbrella that enables improvements in the way
we conduct our affairs, regardless of what type of technology
(cable, telephone, satellite, wireless, fiber to home, etc.) is
being used. Any user anywhere in the world can have access to the
best video, data and voice services they need. We have now
implemented the cable version and telephone version that does this
job and does it well. And there are more advancements certain to
The business person and the entrepreneurs in our field should
work to make broadband simpler and cheaper so that everyone in the
world can use it.
Academia needs to lead the research of how a billion people
connected together should be molded, not only from a technology
point of view, but also from social, economical, and political
points of view as well.
The government should continue to review the law of the last 100
years and adapt it to the reality of the next 100 years -- with
copyright protection, security and fairness in mind. I expect we
will see a secretary of Broadband services in the leading western
nations in fewer than 10 years to shape the economical contributions
of this empowering technology.
Q: Your book is recommended reading for everyone. Please
summarize the sections in your latest book, Planet Broadband?
A: Planet Broadband is a generalized depiction of what broadband
is, how it works, how it was developed, and what it promises to do
for societies at large. In a large measure, it’s meant to
familiarize people with the possibilities of this technology, so
that the next generation of inventors and thinkers can take it to
Q: Describe your top two favorite projects?
A: The two favorite projects of mine have always been 1)
Empowering a new peer to be better and more driving than I am; and
2) To build the best team. The LANcity and YAS teams that have been
my backbone for launching broadband initiatives are a great example
Q: What were the major steps and challenges in writing this book?
What tips can you provide to aspiring authors?
A: The dream of this book started in 1996 after I sold LANcity. I
was blessed to have some of the best people like Stewart, Leslie and
Roger who believed in my vision and were willing to help shape some
of my thinking into a finished book. The major step for me was to
continue believing in this book’s vision, be surrounded by great
writers, and stay on an execution path of getting it done – rather
than just talking about it. So 18 months ago we kicked off the work
over dinner and followed our dream, and here we are today with the
book which went to press on 8-26-03.
Q: Why do you do what you do?
A: My dad taught me at age five to be the best in anything I get
involved with -- or do not get involved at all. My life history had
put me in the path where my management skills, vision and technical
expertise have been fertilized by some of the best leaders in the
world. So after my experience at GE and armed with innovations from
Proteon, LANcity gave me the means to build an infrastructure that
can help to preserve mother earth’s resources, protect her from
pollution and transform the industrial age to the true information
age. It is a lifetime opportunity that reflects the possibility of
living in this amazing era. The difference is that this type of
dream requires the efforts of a whole village (a global village) for
execution; it can’t depend on only one person, like an Einstein or
Da Vinci of the past. The idea behind Planet Broadband was now that
we have proven we can build a 40 million user base, let’s get the
global village aware of this power and build the billion-user
version of it.
Q: What are your major areas of interest? What would be your
recommended top references in these areas?
A: Today we use 80-plus electrical appliances connected to our
home, and there are hundreds of different kinds of vehicles
traveling our highways. It’s helpful to remember we only started
with a lone light bulb, and a single black Ford automobile. In a
similar way, the possibilities associated with broadband are
limitless. My interest is in useful services like medical services
for the elderly who can stay at their home with grandchildren
instead of traveling to the hospital just to monitor their sugar
level or blood pressure, so those services can be done remotely. My
interest is that our generation gap be collapsed in time, so that
people can see live via video conferencing how far mankind has
traveled in last 10,000 years. My interest is that any movie, any
song and any book that was ever written by any author in any
language will be available to everyone at the palm of their hands.
My interest is to make global education available to all. I
recommend people use their creativity and allow their dream to ride
on the broadband highway. As for references, they’re abundant in
today’s information age. You can get a feel for the possibilities of
the broadband age merely by picking up the latest copy of Wired
magazine. Or spending an hour or two reading recent news articles
over the Internet. The world is truly awakening to the possibilities
Q: What are the specific challenges facing your company, the
industry, the country and the globe?
A: YAS Broadband is a global broadband boutique with the best
asset any company could have – its people. I am fortunate to have
had the opportunity to be part of this team. The industry is in its
teenager time and needs supportive parents and environment to be
allowed to grow to be all it can be, and we shouldn’t rush for the
sake of public relations. The industry needs to do the right thing
the right way. Our country, our great nation is blessed to be in the
forefront of this revolution. She shall allow the future generations
to get the best benefit and use of this tool by enabling a smooth
transition from the industrial age to the true information age. In
the 20th century, it used to take 20 years for one student to move
from his motherland to the next, get educated, and go back to his
culture so that he or she could contribute back to that society.
This used to take a lifetime in the 19th century. In the 21st
century, broadband is making this transition happen immediately. So
let the global communication, economy, and political systems learn
from a planet broadband with no physical boundaries.
Q: For those who are newly entering your fields of endeavor, do
you have any suggestions to save them time?
A: Fasten your seat belt and create. This is a new field of
dreams. Let your imagination honor no boundaries.
Q: If you were doing this interview, what three-to-five questions
would you ask of someone in your position and what would be your
1) What sacrifices have you made to get here?
My family and personal life; I still have 15 more years of 24/7
work to do before I am done with my dream.
2) What was the most important and single point of impact in your
life to follow this dream?
Protect the mother earth by using my engineering and management
3) Who was the most influential person in your life?
My Dad, Mom and Sister Pam on a personal basis and John Malone,
Amos Hostetter in a professional basis.
Q: Do you have any additional free-ranging comments you would
like to make?
A: The cable industry was built by leaders like Bill Daniels, and
it was dreamers like him that built this industry into a
multi-million dollar industry.
Another generation of leaders, such as John Malone, Amos
Hostetter, the Roberts family who built Comcast, Jim Robbins, and
others made this industry a multi-billion dollar industry.
Broadband is about to build this industry to be a trillion dollar
global industry, and I am blessed to be a small part of this
Q: If you were to do it all over again, would you do things
A: This has been a great marathon; thanks for stopping me for a
moment to capture my breath. My dream shall continue for the
remainder of its journey with no change. This is a once in a
Q: Rouzbeh, we are indeed fortunate for having you share your
years of wisdom and experiences with us. Thank you again for coming
in to do this interview.
A: Thank YOU and appreciate your time and effort. I would also
like to thank my collaborators Leslie, Stewart, Roger, and the
entire Cisco press team for allowing me to capture this moment in
history for you.