Ameritech Corp. got an early Christmas gift as the Federal Communications Commission greenlighted its request to build video dialtone networks in its service areas across the Midwest. The Ameritech systems, the first to win such approval, eventually aim to compete with cable.

The Baby Bell said phase I of its video dialtone system will be to connect about 1.2 million of its telephone customers in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin starting in fourth quarter 1995. Major markets the telco will serve include Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, Indianapolis and Milwaukee.

“This will be the first widespread commercial deployment of video dialtone,” said Greg Brown, Ameritech VP of video and interactive services. “The commission is making a statement that it wants to introduce competition to cable…. Our services will be competitively priced and backed with superior customer service and reliability.”

Ameritech said that by the year 2000 it hopes to have net works in place to serve its 6 million consumers. The company is committed to spending $4.4 billion over the next 15 years to build the nets.

Ameritech’s Brown added that the telco is near concluding a business deal with Walt Disney Co. and Baby Bells, Bell South and Southwestern Bell Corp., to develop interactive programming and a navigator system that will guide users through video dialtone offerings.

Ameritech plans to offer consumers many of the cable services they get now as well as vid-on-demand and other services.

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