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For week ended November 21, 1999 Posted 24 Feb 2001

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LDS Inventor's secretive venture could change the way networks work (Hoping Clients Make the Switch)

Summarized by Kent Larsen

LDS Inventor's secretive venture could change the way networks work (Hoping Clients Make the Switch)
Washington Post, pg F16 15Nov99 B2
By Sarah Schafer: Washington Post Staff Writer

COLUMBIA, MARYLAND -- An LDS inventor and millionaire's latest venture could change the way computer networks operate and in the process earn billions in a nascent market. David Huber's new venture, Corvis Corporation, expects to eventually employ 1,500 people.

Corvis has raised between $40 and $80 million in venture capital to date, including Huber's own investment. Huber was the founder of Ciena Corporation, a Linthicum, Maryland high-tech firm that raised $3.4 billion in a 1997 IPO, the highest amount raised by any IPO that year. But Huber soon had a falling-out with the Board of Directors, and left Cienna, $300 million richer from the stock that he owned.

With Corvis, Huber is claiming that he has developed an all-fiber optic network, which should cut up to 75 percent of the cost of running digital telephone and data networks. To take advantage of this cost savings, telephone companies and network providers would have to switch their entire networks over to Corvis' technology, a daunting and expensive task.

Because of intense competition in this market, Corvis has become very secretive about their technology. The company didn't even have a website until April, and the website contains so little information, that anaylists visiting the site are frustrated. All analysts that talk with the company must sign non-disclosure agreements that cover the technology. This secrecy has led to a lot of criticism in the industry of Corvis and of Huber.

"I think it's distracting from Corvis's main message, all the secrecy they're applying to their technology," says Chris Nicoll, an analyst with Current Analysis in Sterling, Virginia. "Corvis appears to have some revolutionary applications, but it's getting lost in the secrecy -- you know, why are they being secretive?" But Huber stands by his statements about his technology, in spite of the difficulty for analysts to verify them, "We've been very direct," he says. "And I'm not a person who believes in sleight of words."

Huber grew up in an LDS family in Le Grande, Oregon. When he started college at Eastern Oregon University, he chose to study physics because it seemed most interesting and cutting-edge. He went on to get a Ph.D. from BYU. In 1989, Huber joined General Instrument Corp., to help develop the optical amplifier, a device that amplifies light signals by sending them through fiber soaked in a rare element called erbium. The technology had been discovered by David Payne, one of Huber's heroes. "The optical amplifier just changed everything," says Huber.

Huber says that technology is basically "amoral," that morality comes from how it is used. People have a moral obligation to use technology for good, he says. Scientists should therefore seek for new technology, "Our job is to see if we can be at the forefront," he says.

Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 Kent Larsen · Privacy Information