While the rest of the industry scrambles to form alliances
to provide local telephony over cable-television lines, voice service is going to have a
lower priority for Suburban Cable's new president and chief operating officer, Joseph
Although that may come as a bit of a surprise considering
Cece's background -- he was previously in charge of digital services at Cablevision
Systems Corp. and president and COO of the Woodbury, N.Y.-based MSO's telephony
subsidiary, Cablevision Lightpath -- it shouldn't. Cece said he will initially
concentrate on rolling out digital cable services and high-speed Internet.
Suburban has already started offering high-speed-data
service @Home Network in its Delaware system, and it plans to make the service available
in all of its systems by the year 2000.
Suburban -- a subsidiary of Oaks, Pa.-based Lenfest
Communications Corp. -- has about 1 million subscribers in systems in Pennsylvania, New
Jersey and Delaware. Cece will report to Gerry Lenfest, Suburban's chairman and CEO.
And though Cece may have been best known for his
stewardship of Cablevision Lightpath, he said his focus has been on new services recently,
and not just on telephony.
"If you look at my background, you'll see that my
experience was focusing on launching new businesses," Cece said. "The difference
now is that I get to run the whole MSO."
And for the moment, the focus will be on high-speed-data
and digital services.
"The two big priorities are the rollout of digital
products and, subsequently, @Home," Cece said. "Telephony is important, but I
would not prioritize it over the other two simply because the infrastructure is not in
While he was at Cablevision Lightpath, Cece helped to build
an internal switching infrastructure to serve several-thousand customers in the Long
Island area of New York. Suburban has no such infrastructure in place.
Cece said his new company is still trying to decide which
path to take in the telephony market -- whether to build its own network or to partner
with AT&T Corp. to offer service.
Although Cece would not say which method Suburban will
ultimately choose, given the fact that its parent company is 50 percent-owned by
Tele-Communications Inc., which is in the midst of a merger with AT&T, an agreement
with the long-distance carrier is a strong possibility.
In addition, AT&T last week announced a partnership
with Time Warner Cable to provide telephony via that operator's cable network. The
long-awaited agreement is also thought by many to be the template by which other telephony
deals between AT&T and other cable operators play out.
Although Cece was intrigued by the AT&T-Time Warner
deal, he said it has yet to be decided whether Suburban would attempt to strike a similar
"We will give that a very, very, very close
look," he added.
Cece said the rollout of digital services is going strong,
and the company already has some digital boxes in the beta-test stage.