One of the most innovative telecom companies you may never have heard of has buried the fiber-optic cables and removed the overhead lines and poles along the Park Row Completion Project for The Energy Corridor District.
The new fiber laid underground by Phonoscope – a locally owned firm that has been racking up innovations in connectivity for six decades – is providing the high-speed data needs of developments now springing up along the recently completed Park Row extension just north of I-10.
While Phonoscope CEO/Founder Lee Cook and his connectivity networks are legendary among the region’s large companies and sprawling school districts, few Houstonians may know that the company holds the nation’s largest privately owned fiber-optic Metropolitan Area Network (MAN). Phonoscope’s Ethernet data circuits, Internet service, carrier-grade circuits and private dark-fiber networks speed data to residents and businesses throughout Greater Houston and seven surrounding counties.
“Burying the fiber is aesthetically better, but it also increases network reliability because storms can no longer knock down the lines,” explains Clark Martinson, general manager for The Energy Corridor District. “The next generation of business campuses along Park Row will be using a fiber-optic network laid by a company that’s been trailblazing telecommunications innovations for 61 years.”
In fact, Phonoscope deployed Houston’s first privately owned, fiber-optic network for video and data back in 1984, laying the high-speed connectivity infrastructure that these days is just part of daily life.
“When we talk about connectivity at Phonoscope, it’s more than data services, wires and technology,” explains Sarah Schlager, president of Phonoscope Global.
“It’s really all about innovation for human-to-human interaction.”
An idea taken for granted now – that people could actually meet, see one another and interact over great distances without ever leaving their offices or classrooms – led Cook to create Phonoscope in 1953. Cook and his company made two-way audiovisual communication possible during the 1950s, long before someone named it “video conferencing.”
Business, of course, loved the idea. But Cook also saw video conferencing as a way to improve access to education – in a big way.
By 1959, Phonoscope had launched the world’s first large-scale, two-way audio-video teaching network for the Galveston Independent School District. Students and teachers could now “talk and see” one another without being in the same classroom. “Distance learning” became a reality. Phonoscope and its services eventually evolved to provide wide-area network connectivity and Internet service to more than 30 school districts and college networks.
Hospitals also benefited from Phonoscopes’ closed-circuit, video conferencing technology, using it to monitor at-risk babies in neonatal wards starting in the 1990s.
Phonoscope “firsts” are many.
Some notables: Phonoscope deployed Houston’s first gigabit Ethernet data connectivity, enabling companies to transmit 3D visualizations faster and cheaper than ever before; it then became the first service provider to expand to a 10 gigabit Ethernet network; in 1989, the company completed the first, large-scale private fiber-optic ring in Houston, encompassing major business districts.
This is a company that stays ahead of the curve. In the 1970s, it developed a music video jukebox for entertainment venues around town – then introduced a content delivery network to display videos and ads in local supermarkets. Hard to believe, but those television monitors on your local gas pump are so 1978.
These days, companies in The Energy Corridor call on Phonoscope to build secure Intranets, linking facilities with remote sites, data centers and telecommunication carriers using self-healing fiber-optic rings with a built-in redundancy rate of 99.9 percent, coupled with low latency, or small delay times.
Phonoscope has become a one-stop shop for all things communication, able to converge data, voice and video networks, while providing Internet, data via Ethernet circuits, voice services (IP telephony) and managed services for enterprise and small business applications. Its television cable services are found in apartment communities throughout the region. Phonoscope also provides wholesale telecom carrier services.
Next time you’re checking traffic on the Internet, watching video feeds from TransStar, or perhaps calling 911 – services made possible with Phonoscope-provided fiber – you might think back to 1953 and the dreams of Lee Cook.