GTE Corp. has pumped up the features on its mainStreet
interactive-video service by adding Internet access.
The company also said mainStreet will be migrated to a
digital platform by the third quarter.
MainStreet -- a two-way service utilized in the
telco's video ventures in the Clearwater, Fla., area, and in Thousand Oaks, Calif. --
currently provides subscribers using dedicated remotes with about 95 multimedia and
The company tested Web access in April in 1,500 homes in
the California system. According to executives, 20 percent of the sample homes tried the
Internet link within the first 24 hours. Clearwater customers will get Internet access May
MainStreet's Internet links will take users to sites
such as the Bloomberg News Web site, Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia Online, weather.com,
e*Trade, easySABRE.com and sportsextra.com. Chat rooms and e-mail are also available.
GTE officials were coy about how much the service will cost
consumers. Spokeswoman Stella Alvo said the price depends on the system, which can offer
it either in a package or a la carte, and she added that GTE's Florida and California
operations will price it differently. Sold individually, GTE is pricing the Web service
comparably to a local system's premium services, she said.
The telco will market the programming to cable operators at
next month's National Show.
"Cable operators seeking to introduce enhanced TV to
their cable operations will like the fact that there's no additional equipment
required in the home, and that it runs on existing set-top boxes," said Tom Grieb,
senior vice president and general manager of GTE mainStreet, in a statement.
The processing power for the service is at the headend: a
UNIX computer connected to the Internet via a high-speed T-1 line. Information is cached
and updated on a communitywide basis. With the setup, data-transmission speeds are 125
kilobits per second.
Also, mainStreet will go digital soon. GTE will migrate its
16,000 existing mainStreet customers to General Instrument Corp.'s DCT 1000 box by
September. This will also eliminate mainStreet's proprietary set-top equipment, which
executives said had been a "large impediment" to the broader rollout of their
interactive service. And use of the GI boxes will speed up installation.