TELECOM WATCH

Satellite Pirates Accused: A civil suit was filed on June 26 by DIRECTV Inc., El Segundo, Calif., a unit of GM Hughes Electronics, against an alleged international piracy ring. DIRECTV claims that the ring has broken into an encryption system. The 22 defendants have been accused of developing, distributing, marketing and selling counterfeit access cards, computer chips and other devices that provide illegal reception of DIRECTV.


The suit, filed with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, Seattle, alleges violation of myriad laws, including the Communications Act, the federal wiretap law, the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act and the Lanham Trademark Act. It is so far the most comprehensive action taken against satellite pirates in North America. Defendants are from the United States, Canada, Bermuda and the Cayman Islands.

Linking Schools and Libraries: MCI Communications Corp., Washington, D.C., is the latest telco to propose linking schools and libraries to the Internet. An MCI plan filed with the Federal Communications Commission's Federal-State Joint Board on Universal Service would require telcos to provide those organizations with Internet access at cost. Schools and libraries that could not afford that rate would get even deeper discounts.

The plan is expected to be forwarded by the Joint Board to the FCC Nov. 8. The agency then has six months to issue rules.

Keeping a Commercial Focus: PSINet Inc., Herndon, Va., will attempt to keep both a consumer and a commercial focus by transferring its Pipeline and InterRamp individual subscribers to Atlanta-based MindSpring. In a five-year contract, PSINet agreed to provide MindSpring with nationwide access, including integrated services digital network, and to carry its traffic over the PSINet system. MindSpring is expected to pay $23 million over the next two quarters to PSINet.

WorldCom Buys Choice Cellular: WorldCom Inc., Jackson, Miss., will acquire Choice Cellular, Phoenix, for an undisclosed amount.

Choice is the sixth largest cellular reseller in the country. The company also resells paging services. Jim Wolfinger, president, CEO and founder of Choice, will lead the cellular operations of WorldCom.

"In a marketplace characterized by rapid movement toward one-stop solutions, the ability to combine wireless services like those offered by Choice Cellular with our innovative long distance services is essential," said Bernard Ebbers, president and CEO of WorldCom.


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