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March 16, 1997

In R.I., it's Cox alone;
in Mass., it's a long wait

By Timothy C. Barmann

If you are among the minority of cable subscribers served by one of the state's three other cable systems -- Full Channel TV of Warren, Westerly Cable TV, or Block Island Cable TV -- it seems you are out of luck, at least for the foreseeable future.

Two have no plans to offer Net access and the third won't say when, or even if, it will offer Internet service.

Mike Davis, manager of Warren's Full Channel TV, said his system has the capability now to deliver Internet service on its "institutional loop" -- a network that connects schools and city buildings in Warren, Bristol and Barrington.

But he said he can't see making subscribers "bankroll" the service, which could cost as much as $500 to $1,000 per household. He doesn't believe it would make sense for his company to make that kind of investment either.

"The consumer's dissatisfaction with the Internet will not be cured by having 10 times or 100 times more rapid access." Until fundamental congestion problems on the Internet are fixed, he doesn't see offering Net access, he said.

Rich Benetti, head technician of Block Island's 500-subscriber system, said there are no plans right now to offer Internet access. "I'm not going to going to rule it out saying we're never going to offer it. Who knows in the future."

A spokesman for Continental Cablevision, which owns Westerly Cable TV, didn't return phone calls. Continental does have its own Internet cable service called Highway1 and it's available now in certain parts of Massachusetts.

The cost is in the same range as Cox's Orange County service. A customer service representative at Highway1 said Rhode Island is not on a list of projected service areas that extends to 1998.

Nearby Massachusetts cable subscribers are in for a long wait as well. Cox will not upgrade its systems in Swansea, Somerset and North Attleboro for at least two years, said John Wolfe, who handles Cox's governmental affairs for New England.

Fall River is scheduled to get Internet cable service sometime in 1998, according to a sales representative at Continental Cablevision's Highway1 service.

Rehoboth and Attleboro may get the service in 12 to 18 months, said Stephen Cronin, general manager for Inland Cable Communications.

Steve Grossman, general manager of Cablevision Industries, which serves Seekonk, said it will be three to four years before it be able to offer the service.