Cable television (originally called CATV or community antenna television) was developed in the late 1940′s for communities unable to receive TV signals because of terrain or distance from TV stations. Cable television system operators located antennas in areas with good reception, picked up broadcast station signals and then distributed them by coaxial cable to subscribers for a fee. In 1950, cable systems operated in only 70 communities in the United States. These systems served 14,000 homes. By December 2011, there were more than 5,300 systems serving approximately 60 million subscribers in more than 34,000 communities. Cable systems are operating in every state of the United States and in many other countries, such as Canada and Australia, and throughout Europe and much of East Asia. Channel capacity in the industry has increased dramatically in recent years; most cable subscribers now receive service in excess of 100 channels. On average, cable systems offer about 80 expanded basic service channels as well as more than 50 digital channels.
The channel capacity of a cable system makes it possible for a cable television system operator to provide many services. In addition to over-the-air television broadcast signals, cable systems offer a wide variety of programming networks, including, for example, news, weather, business information, movies, sports, general and special entertainment services, and programming designed for specific audiences such as children, women, and ethnic and racial groups. Cable systems also offer programming on an on-demand and pay-per-view basis, and increasingly are allowing their subscribers to access programming on mobile devices. Over 90 percent of all cable subscribers have access to systems that offer a full-range of telecommunications services, including high-speed Internet access and telephone service. Some cable operators also create their own local programming and provide access channels for public and institutional uses. They also provide leased access channels for “rent” to those wishing to show specific programs. Electronic banking, shopping, utility meter reading, and home security are some of the home services that are possible using the two-way transmission capabilities of cable television systems.
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