Rouzbeh Yassini-Fard

Founder & Board Member, YAS Foundation

Don’t underestimate a person with a vision, especially if that visionary has the determination of Rouzbeh Yassini. Against all odds, Yassini played an outsize role in connecting the world and became known as the “father of the cable modem.”

Arriving in the U.S. from his native Iran to attend West Virginia University in 1977, Yassini originally intended to study medicine, but pivoted to electrical engineering. “Like healthcare, communications has no boundaries. The discovery continues forever,” he says.

Yassini’s first job in 1981 was with General Electric, where he designed TV sets, cameras and videocassette recorders, and got his first glimpse of how cable television worked. In 1986 he moved to New England to become director of engineering at a data networking company, Proteon.

Those two experiences started the wheels turning. “At GE we did video over coax for consumers, and at Proteon we did data over twisted pair for corporate users. I thought, wouldn’t it be great to put data and video over the same wire,” he recalls. But not everyone agreed. “The chief technical officers at Proteon told me that if it could be done, somebody would already have done it. So I quit Proteon and followed my vision to do it myself.”

Working with a hand-picked team of engineers and advisors, Yassini began deploying a first-generation cable modem for university campuses and government clients including the Rock Island Arsenal military complex, where a then-record 5,000 users were connected by a blended coax-and-data network.

In 1990, Yassini founded LANcity Corp. to develop technology that was smaller, agile, and built for scale. A second-generation modem for institutional customers paved the way for LANcity’s crown jewel: a powerful, affordable modem designed to integrate with residential cable networks.

At the time, many larger cable U.S. operators remained focused on their core business of video, not data connectivity. Smaller companies, however, were more willing to experiment, and by 1992, with more than 100 operators using LANcity’s modems, larger peers began to join the parade. “The biggest challenge wasn’t inventing the technology and scaling it,” Yassini says. “It was convincing the cable industry that data over cable had business value, and that it could be the underpinning for a generational transformation.”

With the LANcity personalized cable modem revolution accelerating in 1995 and its merger with BayNetwork Inc., Yassini went on to work with CableLabs as executive consultant in 1997 to develop the DOCSIS standard and a companion interoperability/certification effort that would vault “cable television” into the broader realm of telecommunications. Today, DOCSIS-powered devices are just about everywhere, connecting billions of people. But Yassini says there’s still work to be done. One objective: make sure every citizen is connected to broadband. Another: help heal planet Earth. Pairing vast sensor networks with broadband connectivity offers enormous potential for improving environmental conditions ranging from cleaner water to reduced pollution. “Eventually, we’ll learn to use the network to improve human life and extend the planet’s survival, says Yassini. “That’s the ultimate goal.”

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Rouzbeh Yassini-Fard, Founder & Board Member, YAS Foundation - 2024 Cable Hall of Fame Honoree
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