RealTime IT News

Georgia City Offers Free Cable Internet Access

WorldGate Communications Inc., Charter Communications Inc. and the City of LaGrange, Ga. Wednesday launched a broadband that will provide cable households with free Internet services using set-top boxes.

Located 60 miles southwest of Atlanta, the LaGrange Internet initiative is the first program of its kind in the country.

The collaborative effort provides residents of LaGrange with WorldGate's (WGAT) interactive programming, Internet access, e-mail, and chat services at no-cost for at least one year. The WorldGate system offers Internet access over TV through standard Motorola Inc. (MOT) set-top box converters and Charter's (CHTR) cable infrastructure.

Tom Hall, LaGrange city manager, said the city's broadband Internet access program has two priorities, bringing the benefits of the online world to resident's living rooms and developing a unique quality of life program for telecommuters.

"Our primary focus is to develop the community's use of the Internet as an educational tool," Hall said. "We're also in the initial stages of marketing the city as a quality home for telecommuters."

In 1998, Charter Communications and the City of LaGrange entered into an agreement by which the City financed and constructed a state-of-the-art, two-way hybrid fiber coax network. Through a leaseback agreement with Charter, LaGrange's cable network reserved bandwidth to support emerging technologies for residential and business communication services.

The innovative public-private collaboration allows citizens of LaGrange to enjoy broadband enhanced communications services earlier than many other communities around the country. Hall said the city's free cable access program is scheduled to start installing set-top boxes sometime in June.

Charter Communications subscribers within Troup County, including the 27,000 citizens of LaGrange, can access the Internet through the city's cable hybrid system and Charter Pipeline's Internet service with set-top boxes for free or subscribe to cable modem services for personal computers as supported by the city for $39 a month.

Hal Krisbergh, WorldGate chairman and chief executive officer, said the free cable access program is an essential bridge that shines as an example of how to span the country's looming Digital Divide.

"We are very excited to be a part of this incredible opportunity aimed at empowering an entire community with interactive television and the Internet," Krisbergh said.