Thinking about cable modems: Digital Equipment Corp., Maynard, Mass., has founded a cable modem development think tank that will provide consulting and integration services for companies in broadband PC trials. The Cable Industry Network Competency Center will be based in Littleton, Mass. DEC said it will support all brands of cable modems, not just those it manufactures.

USTA challenges Time Warner-Turner merger: Comments were filed with the Federal Communications Commission this month on the Time Warner-Turner Broadcasting System Inc. proposed merger. Some, including the United States Telephone Association, Washington, D.C., say the merger is anti-competitive. USTA said the deal will give the new company an unfair advantage in the video programming market. In fact, said USTA, the merger would violate the program access provisions of the 1992 Cable Act. The FCC will consider all comments filed before approving the deal.

With or without telecom reform: AT&T, Basking Ridge, N.J., has received permission from Maryland state regulators to offer local telephone service to customers, possibly starting mid-year. However, AT&T won't build its own network, but will pay local companies, in this case, Bell Atlantic, to use its networks. Basically, the plan will make AT&T a reseller of local phone service. The pending telecom reform promised to let long distance and local carriers into each others' markets. Although that legislation still may pass, companies such as AT&T are starting to make their own fail-safe plans.

Banking on MCI: First Union Corp., Charlotte, N.C., the sixth largest bank holding company in the United States, has chosen MCI Telecommunications Corp., Washington, D.C., to handle all its communications business. MCI's virtual network service will link the bank's 2,000 branches. First Union also will switch from a VSAT (very small aperture terminal) satellite architecture to MCI's HyperStream frame relay platform.

With the recent incorporation of First Fidelity bank into First Union, the company's data capacity needs have increased 50 percent, said First Union. MCI and First Union also announced a cyberbanking project that offers customers an Internet access software package.

It's a first: MCI Telecommunications Corp., Washington D.C., claims to be the first long distance company to offer frame-relay access for electronic data interchange.

In the past, companies have had to either add a dial-up connection or buy a leased line to provide EDI. Frame-relay access would save up to 40 percent over those prices, MCI said.

Luck of the Irish: WorldCom Inc., Jackson, Miss., has bought a 30 percent stake in TCL Telecom, an international telecommunications company in Dublin, Ireland.

WorldCom, the fourth largest long distance company in the United States, provides voice, data and video services worldwide. The acquisition boosts WorldCom's European presence. In turn, TCL expects the new capital will help the smaller company's growth. Sean Melly, founder of TCL Telecom, said the deal will mean lower international rates for customers, better call quality and new telecom services.
Melly also said he expects TCL to jump from 300 corporate customers to 1,000 in 1996, and will increase its staff this year from 20 to 50.

How to make money on the Internet: Internet Society president Tony Rutowski has become vice president of Internet development at General Magic, Sunnyvale, Calif. In an e-mail to reporters, Rutowski said he will split his time between the east and west coasts, and plans to set up a new office in the Washington, D.C., area.

Launching a new network: US West, Denver, is launching a synchronous optical network (SONET) using equipment supplied by Northern Telecom. The US West Network 21 will be available in seven cities, starting with Denver, Phoenix and Seattle.

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