CONVERGENCE WATCH

The Stentor Alliance of Canadian phone companies, comparable here to the Baby Bells, have threatened to cancel a proposed CDN $8.5 billion investment in phone network improvements unless they are granted immediate access to the cable-TV business, which is largely the providence of mega-Rogers Cablesystems. The Canadian Federal Bureau of Competition Policy supports the alliance. But it gets more interesting: The Canadian Cable Television Association asked the CRTC, similar to the FCC, to affirm the industry's monopoly on cable service for at least seven years - allowing it to improve technology and look at offering local phone service. Canada's anti-cable industry backlash, said the Toronto Globe and Mail, can be traced back to the CRTC's failure to involve consumers in policy development years ago.

-America Online formed an agreement Jan. 5 to provide its more than 1.5 million subscribers services for mobile pagers, bringing AT&T Wireless Services and Mobile Media on board. AOL customers should be able to receive personalized messages via pagers, including E-mail, news and stock quotes at no additional charge. AOL has also extended its exclusivity agreement with Time magazine, and will be putting up the publisher's Entertainment Weekly magazine as well.

-A U.S. District Court ruling Jan. 13 will allow GTE Telephone Operations to provide video programming over video dialtone networks, which it hasn't developed yet. The ruling, from an Eastern Virginia District court, also allows GTE to operate closed cable-TV systems where it provides local telephone service. The company is planning to build video networks in 66 markets over the next 10 years, spending about $250 million to build broadband video networks in four markets this year, in Ventura County, Calif., St. Petersburg and Clearwater, Fla., and Northern Virginia.

-At press time three Baby Bells, Ameritech, BellSouth and the former Southwestern Bell, were close to signing an agreement with Walt Disney Co. to develop, market and deliver video programming to consumers. The partners together would invest more than $100 million a year for five years to make it so. The effort would rival Hollywood uberagent Michael Ovitz's $100 million, three-year deal with Bell Atlantic, NYNEX and Pacific Telesis announced in the fall.


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