Washington -- SBC Communications Inc. will continue to
compete in the cable business if regulators approve its merger with Ameritech Corp., Sen.
Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) said last week.
DeWine said SBC has assured him that it would happen.
"They told me that they would. I have that from the
CEO," DeWine told reporters after a Senate hearing last Wednesday on satellite
competition to the cable-television industry.
SBC chairman and CEO Edward Whitacre, in Senate testimony
last May, said he would give Ameritech's cable business "a fair look," but
he would not promise to keep the business running after the merger.
But Whitacre's view has apparently changed -- with one
"It is fair to say that the chairman made a commitment
to continue operating the cable properties there, as long as they continue to be
profitable and well-run," SBC spokesman Selim Bingol said.
Ameritech's cable division, Ameritech New Media, has
93 cable franchises spread across Illinois, Michigan and Ohio, serving approximately
200,000 subscribers. ANM spokesman Geoff Potter said the MSO is signing up 38 percent of
the households to which it markets cable-TV service.
SBC agreed to buy Ameritech last year in a $62 billion
stock transaction that regulators are examining closely.
When the merger was announced last year, there was concern
that SBC would fold Ameritech's cable operation because Whitacre had ordered Pacific
Telesis Group to shut down its cable and wireless businesses after SBC closed its deal to
At the Senate hearing, DeWine said that wherever Ameritech
has decided to offer cable in Ohio, "choice has expanded and service has improved for
Last week, DeWine sent Federal Communications Commission
chairman William Kennard a letter urging speedy approval of EchoStar Communications
Corp.'s $1.6 billion acquisition to acquire a key satellite license from News Corp.
and MCI Communications Corp. The Department of Justice has already approved the deal.
Ameritech is one of the few major phone companies that
decided to build stand-alone cable facilities to compete with incumbents -- a development
that disappointed lawmakers who expected a stronger response to the Telecommunications Act
of 1996, which removed the ban on telco entry into cable.
Bell Atlantic Corp. flirted with becoming a cable operator
or an open-video-system provider, but it backed off. Instead, Bell Atlantic has chosen to
market satellite-TV services provided by DirecTV Inc.