Bell Atlantic wins cable TV rights

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The Independent Online
BELL Atlantic has been granted permission to use its telephone network to carry cable television signals into the homes of its customers, in a move seen as opening the way to fierce competition between existing cable operators and the regional telephone companies.

Philadelphia-based Bell Atlantic first made its request to the Federal Communications Commission in 1992, following the signing of an agreement with FutureVision of America to carry cable TV programming in the Toms River suburban area near Philadelphia. Similar applications to carry cable signals have since been filed by the other Baby Bells, and many of these are now expected to be given the go ahead by the FCC as it works its way through the backlog of requests.

Bell Atlantic said that it would need six months to rebuild its network in the Toms River area, and could start providing cable TV services to homes in that area by the beginning of next year.

The cable television industry has come in for a great deal of criticism from consumer groups which feel there is not enough competition in the industry. The entry of the powerful Baby Bells could provide that competition, but consumer groups also fear that telephone users could end up footing the bill for an expensive expansion into cable TV.

The FCC moves comes at a time when the Baby Bells are aggressively pressing their case to be allowed to move beyond the local telephone services originally allotted to them when AT&T was broken up in 1984.

On Wednesday four of the regional companies, Bell Atlantic, BellSouth, Nynex and Southwestern Bell, filed a lawsuit aimed at freeing them from the restrictions placed on them by Federal Judge Harold Greene, who has taken a conservative view on any possible changes to the laws under which the Baby Bells operate.

The regional phone companies argue that technological change has altered the telecommunications market, and are asking that they no longer be banned from offering long-distance telephone services and manufacturing telecoms equipment. The Baby Bells are also lobbying hard in Washington for legislative changes to the rules under which they operate.