Pols Praise Comcast for Competing With Bells

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Comcast Corp. won praise last week from two U.S. senators for sticking with promises to roll out local phone service and compete with the Baby Bells.

The pat on the back came in a three-page letter cosigned by Sen. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio), chairman of the subcommittee on antitrust, competition policy and consumer rights, and Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wisc.), the panel's top Democrat.

The May 14 letter was a reply to assurances from Comcast CEO Brian Roberts that some recent press reports had been incorrect in indicating that Comcast would not make local phone service a priority.

"We were pleased to learn of your assurances that Comcast is committed to maintain and expand its telephone offerings. We believe that the cable-telephony offerings by cable providers such as Comcast are essential to provide needed competition to the incumbent local phone companies," the lawmakers said in their letter to Roberts.

Comcast, the country's largest cable operator, ended the first quarter with about 1.4 million phone customers, most of which were acquired with AT&T Broadband last year, a Comcast source said. The 21.3 million subscriber MSO also is experimenting with phone service over cable networks using Internet Protocol technology in Coatesville, Pa., and Moorestown, N.J.

Roberts offered his phone assurances in an April 15 letter to the senators. A committee press aide said that an entire copy of Roberts's letter would not be released.

In their letter, the senators quoted Roberts as saying, "Comcast's commitment to make the telephone business successful has only grown stronger" and that the company "will maintain and expand our phone service offerings as rapidly as possible."

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