“He was not afraid to take a risk and fight for a new idea,” Cioffi said.
Mr Lechleider was fueled by a vast curiosity, his son said. Two walls of his office, he recalls, were two-story shelves, with books on topics ranging from physics to philosophy. The study also featured a bust of Albert Einstein, whom Mr. Lechleider revered for putting forward ideas that questioned accepted wisdom.
Digital subscriber lines have not seen immediate success. Early versions were unable to provide video-on-demand services, the market the Bell companies originally wanted to enter. And when the Internet started to take off in the 1990s, most consumers connected using dial-up modems, which increased the demand for second telephone lines in homes. It was a good deal for the telephone companies, and a familiar deal. Why choose this new DSL technology?
“There was great skepticism,” said Mr Lechleider said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal in 2003. “There were people who didn’t want to deploy it. There were people who thought it wouldn’t work. Many of them weren’t sure there was a market for it.
But as the web added more data-rich images, music and videos, the demand for affordable and faster communication services has increased. And DSL technology has allowed phone companies to do this for years without having to undertake the expensive alternative of installing fiber optic cable in homes.
Mr. Lechleider brought up a key idea. But it was younger engineers like Mr. Cioffi who developed DSL modem technology.
The inexpensive intelligence of DSL technology, according to industry analysts, means that telephone companies have not invested heavily in upgrading their broadband systems, as cable companies, like Comcast have done. and Time Warner Cable. Cable operators initially feared competition from satellite television, but their investment has paid off, allowing them to offer ever faster Internet service.
“DSL has allowed telephone companies to squeeze another two decades from their copper infrastructure,” said Craig moffett, telecommunications analyst. “But the telephone companies are now far behind the cable companies in the speeds they can offer.”