Boston signs deal for cable, phone, Net service

Boston recently signed a 15-year agreement with Residential Communications Networks Corp., a Princeton, N.J.-based broadband network provider, that will give city residents another choice for cable TV, telephone and Internet services.

RCN, which has been in Boston for the past two years under an interim agreement, will accelerate deployment of its fiber-optic network, which was already delivering long-distance phone services, cable TV and Internet services to some city residents.

The long-term agreement with RCN requires the company to spend $10 million to build a wide-area network to extend its Internet and cable services to city facilities, schools, libraries and other public buildings.

"Our goal is to build out the city and 65 surrounding communities and towns," said Jim Maiella, an RCN spokesman. "We want to continue to expand in the Boston-to-Washington, D.C., corridor."

Over the next four years, RNC will work with Boston Edison electric subsidiary BecoCom to complete construction on a 900-mile high-capacity network designed to reach all of the city's 280,000 households.

Boston claims to be the first city in the nation to authorize cable and telecommunications competition after the Telecommunications Act of 1996 deregulated the industry. Cablevision of Boston Inc., the city's largest telecom company, renewed a 10-year agreement with the city in 1998.

"We like the idea of competition and have used it as our guiding light after the act of 1996 to provide the best choice, service and cost to city residents," said Mike Lynch, director of the city's cable office. "The short-term challenge is to bridge the gap of these announcements and full penetration in the marketplace so you have full competition in the market. [RCN is] just building right now."

RCN is designing and building networks in about 25 Boston-area communities and already offers service in four communities: Somerville, Arlington, Newton and Waltham.

Cablevision did not seem bothered by the prospect of competition from the RCN deal. "We welcome the competition and look forward to providing our customers with the best technology and services in the marketplace," said Jay Somers, director of government affairs for Cablevision.

RCN currently operates in New York City and Philadelphia, and recently said it would expand to San Francisco and San Diego.

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