SNET Wants Out Of Cable in Conn.

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Southern New England Telecommunications Corp., the Connecticut-based subsidiary of SBC Communications Inc., said last Friday that it asked the Connecticut Department of Public Utility Control for permission to discontinue its cable-television business early next year.

SNET got a statewide cable franchise in 1996, and it has built a hybrid fiber-coaxial network in 26 towns. Other cable operators protested the franchise application, claiming that it gave SNET unfair scale economies. But regulators approved the franchise, seeking to bring in cable competition.

SNET Americast has about 30,000 subscribers.

SBC has been aggressively divesting cable, and it is currently exploring a sale of the former Ameritech Corp.'s 300,000-subscriber cable operations.

Beryl Lyons, a spokeswoman for the DPUC, said the agency just got SNET's application. "We have to look to their arguments to see if what they're saying is in fact," Lyons said.

She added that it will be at least one week before staff is assigned to the case, and the evaluation could take much longer. "This is not going to happen in six to eight weeks," Lyons said.

SNET has been trying to get out of cable for about two years. In October 1998, it told the DPUC that HFC technology was outdated, but that it would keep cable running for at least two more years. In April 1999, SNET got DPUC permission to stop building out the franchise.

SNET spokeswoman Beverly Levy said cable customers would be given the option of switching to direct-broadcast satellite service from DirecTV Inc.

SNET customers in good standing would get $40 credits on their final bills, which can go toward switching to another cable provider or as a special promotion for DirecTV.

Levy said SNET is not considering selling the cable system.

Cablevision Systems Corp., the dominant cable operator in Connecticut, would likely pick up a good portion of SNET's cable subscribers.

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