PacBell plans interactive service

Pacific Bell said Monday it plans a communications network carrying movies on demand and other interactive programming as well as traditional telephone service to 1.3 million California homes.

The plan, if approved by the Federal Communications Commission, will be a “significant” step in building a communications superhighway in California, said Jay Bennett, PacBell’s director of broadband infrastructure policy.

Applications filed

PacBell said it filed four applications with the FCC Monday to start building the network in parts of the San Francisco Bay area, Los Angeles, Orange County and San Diego next year.

The company, a subsidiary of Pacific Telesis Group, expects a decision from the FCC by July 1 of next year, Bennett said. The project should take between nine to 15 months to complete.

The new network would combine fiber optics and coaxial cable, which can carry greater amounts of information than traditional copper wires.

Movies on demand

In addition to providing phone, data and cable services, the new network would carry such interactive programming as movies and television shows on demand, tele-education and home shopping.

It also would carry cable television programming provided by other companies, allowing multiple operators in a single market.

“Our … network will provide a much needed alternative to existing video programming delivery systems,” said Lee Camp, Pacific Bell vice president for consumer broadband services.

“It will increase competition in the video marketplace, and stimulate the diversity of video programming and services available to California consumers.”

PacBell programming

But Pacific Bell, like other companies providing local phone service, also wants to provide its own TV programming.

The company last month filed suit challenging a federal law that forbids telephone companies from providing video programming in their service areas.

PacBell’s filing with the FCC covers about 1.3 million homes in areas the company plans to hook up to the so-called communications or information superhighway by the end of 1996. It hopes to hook up 5 million more by the end of the decade.

The superhighway would link computers, televisions and telephones in a vast network. The cable television industry and regional telephone companies are competing over how homes will be connected to the network.

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