Comcast Taps Juno for Philly Test

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Another MSO is preparing for the almost inevitable open-access era. Comcast Corp. said it would offer Juno Online Services Inc.'s high-speed Internet service over its cable lines in Philadelphia.

This is the operator's first test of the open-access waters. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

Comcast said the trial in its hometown will commence in the first quarter of 2001, offering "Juno Express" to "select" customers in the city.

"Based on what we learn, we are eager to move ahead with plans to offer a choice of ISPs on terms that make sense for our ISP partners and us," Comcast president Steve Burke said, in a statement.

Juno president and CEO Charles Ardai said the Comcast trial represents "the first step in what we hope will be a long and mutually beneficial relationship with Comcast."

Comcast is the third major U.S. MSO to test provision of multiple Internet-service providers. Juno, which counts about 12.8 million registered subscriber accounts, is participating in all three.

AT&T Broadband began opening its high-speed grid to multiple ISPs in Boulder, Colo. on Nov. 1. That technical trial, which has cost in the neighborhood of $20 million, will eventually involve as many as 500 customers.

Because the trial is technical in nature, those subscribers would use the service for free. Eight ISPs are participating in the MSO's Boulder trial. The MSO said it will use results from the test for another trial being planned for next fall in Massachusetts.

Time Warner Cable is also conducting an open access trial in Columbus, Ohio with 50 CompuServe and 50 Time Warner employees. In addition to Road Runner, the MSO's predominant cable-modem ISP, AOL, CompuServe, Juno and RMI.net are among the announced participants.

Time Warner also has a definitive agreement to offer EarthLink Network Inc.'s ISP services over its cable lines, which reach roughly 20 million homes passed. That deal is contingent upon Federal Trade Commission approval of the MSO's merger with AOL.

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