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GTE Debunks Cable Access Myth

GTE Service Corp. has demonstrated that cable modem systems can easily be operated on an open access basis, permitting customers to select the Internet service provider of their choice.

Using its cable network in Clearwater, Fla., GTE conducted the demonstration project over the past two months in conjunction with AOL, CompuServe and its own Internet access division, GTE.net.

"Using the excuse that it's not technically feasible to give customers a choice of ISPs, cable companies have been forcing their customers to pay for and use the ISPs that they own, such as http://www.home.com/ @Home and http://rr.com/rdrun/">RoadRunner." said William P. Barr, GTE executive vice president and general counsel.

"GTE's demonstration pilot flatly discredits the claim that open access and consumer choice are technologically complicated and costly. Using a simple, off-the-shelf device, GTE has shown there is a low-cost solution that is feasible, flexible, scalable and easy to incorporate, giving consumers a real choice."

GTE is in a unique position to demonstrate the ease of how open access to cable networks are possible because the company owns cable systems in Florida and California.

Describing results of the pilot program, Barr said the open access solution is inexpensive; it works on every kind of cable system capable of offering Internet access and it involves no intrusion into the cable operator's management of its own network.

"We know now that when the cable industry says it can't open its network, it really means it won't," said George Vradenburg, AOL senior vice president for global and strategic policy said.

"GTE has proven that open access works as well on cable as it does on phone lines. Cable providers can easily and affordably open up their networks for high-speed Internet competition, and they should do so now. American consumers deserve nothing less."

Vradenburg said consumers don't want to pay for two ISPs to get the one they want, regardless of whether they are connecting over cable or telephone wires.

If consumers want to choose their own ISP they are forced to pay two fees: one fee to purchase the cable company's affiliated ISP access and a second fee for the ISP that they prefer.

Working with several different vendors and standard equipment, GTE made adjustments to its cable modem platform that allows competing ISPs to have direct access to their customers. The technological solutions demonstrated by GTE work whether the cable system is analog or digital. GTE contents that the solution will work with all varieties of cable modems.

"Our solution requires a single one-time investment of $60,000 to give 80,000 customers a choice of ISPs," said Rick Wilson, president of GTE's subsidiary Media Ventures.

"That's less than a dollar a home passed. We took on this experiment because we know that our customers want choices. And GTE accomplished in less than two months, and with minimal expense," he added.

Congress is currently weighing two bills that would require cable modem service providers to open up their networks to competing ISPs. In addition, numerous local communities and several states have entered the public policy debate, despite cable industry threats of litigation.

Just last week, a district judge in Portland, Ore., ruled cities have the authority to ensure open access and competition in cable-delivered Internet services.

"Today's announcement debunks one of the myths the cable companies have tried to create to block open access," Barr said. "The path is now clear for legislators and regulators to ensure that cable customers have the same choices that telephone customers alreadyenjoy."