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...What the hell is the gigabit ethernet?

Thats what it is. Ethernet at gbit rates. ATM is a better protocol for video and audio, and there are built in features for giving better service to specific traffic, but the installed base of non-ATM devices is so large that the justification may not be there to convert to the better technology. It'd be more expensive, and with improvements to existing devices we may not be able to tell the difference.
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