RealTime IT News

WorldGate Steps Onto National Cable ISP Stage

WorldGate Communications, Inc. seeks to shine in the glow of the broadband access spotlight.

WorldGate Wednesday struck deals with four cable companies to accelerate the deployment of its cable Internet services.

WorldGate signed multi-year agreements with Adelphia Communications Corp. , Cox Communications Inc. , Comcast Cable Communications Inc., and Charter Communications, Inc., for the deployment of its set-top box Internet service, dubbed EVERY TV.

In exchange for deployment rights, the cable companies each sliced off a piece of WorldGate by investing a total $24.5 million in the firm.

WorldGate's set-top box allows users to secure Internet access over the existing cable infrastructure, which is a doorway to its permitting anyone who subscribes for standard cable TV service to access the Internet.

WorldGate's cable access offers customers standard features fares, including e-mail, games, chat, Web surfing, calendaring and e-commerce access.

Hal Krisbergh, WorldGate chairman and chief executive officer, said his company's service opens the Internet to people who don't have access to a personal computer.

"We have always believed that the Internet on EVERY TV service is uniquely positioned to satisfy a full range of consumer's needs for access to the Internet," Krisbergh said. "If consumers want additional Internet access without having to purchase additional desk top computers, or they want simple e-mail and Internet access and don't have a computer, WorldGate gives the cable operator a service to satisfy those needs."

Some organizations aren't pleased with the agreement reached between the cable Internet service provider and the third, fifth and sixth largest U.S. cable companies.

Mark Cooper, Consumer Federation of America director of research, said the deal is just more of the same when it comes to cable companies and their closed cable Internet policy.

"Basically, what they're doing is becoming vertically integrated with the other major cable Internet operators," Cooper said. "These are the smaller cable companies getting their own ISP, like Excite@Home with AT&T Corp. and Time-Warner Inc., with its Roadrunner service."

Cooper said WorldGate is creating a middleman for everyone who wants cable access through its set-top box. Now, instead of a customer calling up WorldGate to get the device, all they'll have to go through the cable company, which will get their own percentage of the profit.

The cable ISP has earned points with the government officials after recently move to provide free in cable Internet access to elementary schools through its WISH TV program.

Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA), ranking minority member of the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications, said the program allows equal access to everyone.

"WISH TV provides real solutions for equal access to interactive learning," Markey said. "By connecting the classroom to the home, students, parents and teachers are able to collaborate on projects, receive homework assignments and expand the existing school curriculum. Financial and technological impediments are no longer barriers to accessing the wealth of information on the Internet."