Tele-Communications Inc. will try again in Seattle: Two
years after halting its plans to upgrade its infrastructure for Greater Seattle and the
Puget Sound region, the MSO has restarted the project.
The company plans to finish upgrading Seattle proper by
January 1999, with the rest of the regional rollout happening over the next three years.
The Northwest arm of TCI suspended upgrade work in the fall
of 1996, when the parent company reorganized. Also, William Bennett, TCI's regional
vice president for the Puget Sound service area, said TCI held off on system upgrades
while it assessed developing digital technologies.
Bennett said the pending merger with AT&T Corp. did
not, and likely will not, influence the upgrade plans.
By this fall, the company will have more than 500
engineers, technicians and field personnel simultaneously upgrading cable systems in
Seattle and several suburban cities and unincorporated areas. Bennett estimated that TCI
will add 10,000 homes per month to the new infrastructure in the 700,000-home market.
The new fiber system will provide more than 150 channels of
video and audio programming.
Bennett said TCI has not yet determined much of the
composition of its new digital lineup, such as special-interest channels, premium-channel
multiplexes or pay-per-view services. Some of the special-interest channels will likely
include The Golf Channel, Bloomberg Information Television, Spanish-language channels and
Speedvision, TCI spokesman Steve Kipp said.
Bennett said other crews will activate two-way capabilities
at headends two months after new fiber installations reach each area. Customers can pay
$39.95 per month, plus a $150 installation fee, to receive the @Home Network cable-modem
Bennett would not provide exact figures on the cost of the
upgrade, but he estimated it in the "hundreds of millions of dollars."
TCI will charge $25.58 per month for 67 analog channels in
its new standard-cable service, compared with $24.63 for its current 38-channel offering.
Expanded-basic services that TCI added in March included The History Channel, C-SPAN2, The
Learning Channel, Animal Planet, Cartoon Network, Courtroom Television Network, Comedy
Central, VH1, E! Entertainment Television, MSNBC, Bravo, Home Shopping Network and FXM:
Movies from Fox.
Digital channels added in the spring included 16 basic
networks, nine premium multiplexes and eight pay-per-view channels from TCI's Headend
in the Sky service.
Customers will need to pay an additional $13.55 per month
to receive TCI's digital-cable service, which will include 35 more channels than the
existing, 44-channel digital-cable service that is currently available. The digital
service will eventually offer at least 79 channels, including digital-music services.
Ironically, Redmond, Wash. -- the home of Microsoft Corp.
and its high-tech work force -- will be one of the last areas upgraded for cable-modem