Internet hookups lure Bell Atlantic Entry expected soon in booming business

November 28, 1995|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,SUN STAFF

Bell Atlantic Corp.'s long-expected entry into the booming business of connecting customers to the Internet will likely come within the next two months, a company spokesman said yesterday.

Eric Rabe, the spokesman, said the Philadelphia-based telephone company probably will announce its plans for residential and business Internet services next month or in January.

"We think there's a business in that," he said. "There's been a good deal of effort and energy put into it."

Mr. Rabe would not reveal a specific date for the rollout of service or an estimate of what it might cost, but he did say the company would likely package Internet access with the high-speed digital phone service known as ISDN.

"ISDN is the logical medium for anyone who wants to do this in a big time way," Mr. Rabe said.

Mr. Rabe's comments echo those made by Bell Atlantic Chairman Raymond W. Smith earlier this month at the Comdex trade show in Las Vegas. Mr. Smith told a panel that Bell Atlantic plans to make ISDN a "mass market phenomenon."

ISDN, for Integrated Services Digital Network, is a technology that allows data to be transferred across phone lines at five times the speed allowed by the fastest conventional modems. Many heavy users of the Internet believe that ISDN speeds are the minimum they need to make the global computer network truly usable.

But any move by Bell Atlantic to "bundle" Internet access and ISDN service is bound to be controversial because of its monopoly control of the "last mile" of wire into the customer's home. Its rivals in the Internet access business are certain to demand that the company resell ISDN services at rates that let them compete on equal footing.

Mr. Rabe said yesterday that he assumed Bell Atlantic ISDN services will be unbundled -- that is, not packaged with any other service -- for resale to potential competitors. But that will leave the tricky issue of how to price those services.

Al Wann, a spokesman for potential rival AT&T Corp., said his company believes that all local exchange services should be unbundled for resale at wholesale prices. He said AT&T has not developed a specific policy on ISDN but that he expected the company's stance would be consistent with its past positions.

However the pricing issues are resolved, it is unlikely that Bell Atlantic will offer a plain vanilla form of Internet access.

Mr. Rabe said yesterday that the service could involve a hookup to an on-line service with its own content.

And in an interview published yesterday by the trade publication Telephony, the president of a Bell Atlantic affiliate said his company would produce a significant amount of original content for delivery by Internet.

Sandy Grushow, president of Tele-TV, said that by producing information services for the Internet now, the joint venture of Bell Atlantic and three other telecommunications companies could gain experience for future interactive TV ventures.

Bell Atlantic would not be the first large telephone company to try to grab a share of the rapidly growing Internet access market. MCI Communications Corp., with AT&T on its heels, has been moving aggressively into the business market. In California, Pacific Telesis is already offering Internet access in some areas.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.