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Two of the giant Baby Bell telephone companies – Nynex and BellSouth – received permission from the Federal Communications Commission Feb. 7 to provide video programming over phone lines.

The FCC decisions continue the inexorable push by telcos into cable TV-like programming ventures. Telcos have been aided in the process by a string of favorable court decisions that have overturned Congress’s 1984 ban against phone companies entering the video delivery biz.

Nynex was authorized to offer a commercial “video dialtone” service to 400,000 homes and businesses in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Video dialtone is the phone-line delivery of entertainment and other programming.

The Nynex authorization did not grant that Baby Bell permission to provide its own programming over VDT lines. Hence, the programming will be offered by firms unaffiliated with the phone company. However, the FCC held out the possibility that Nynex may be permitted to own its own programming if the firm seeks additional authorization to do so.

BellSouth got the OK to conduct an 18-month trial of VDT service to 12,000 homes outside Atlanta. BellSouth also will be given the right to own its own programming on a portion of the VDT network.