- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 4, 2001

High-speed Internet customers in the region were spared any disruptions in service, after two of the nation's biggest cable companies reached a new agreement with the financially troubled AtHome Corp.
Local residents were not among the nearly 1 million people cut off from their connections late Friday, after a judge's ruling allowed AtHome, a broadband Internet provider, to break its contract with the nation's largest cable companies.
AtHome, of Cupertino-Calif., filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in October. It had reportedly been losing $6 million a week under the previous contracts.
Only AT&T;, which does not serve any high-speed Internet customers in this region, cut off service over the weekend. The company said it will have all of its 870,000 AtHome customers switched to its own proprietary network by the end of the week. Nearly half had already been converted by yesterday, the company reported.
Comcast, of Philadelphia, and Atlanta-based Cox Communications, whose own networks are not yet ready to handle all of its AtHome customers, chose to try to negotiate new deals with AtHome rather than cut off service. Cox said it had reached a tentative deal with AtHome, and that Comcast was involved.
The contracts had not yet been signed as of late yesterday, but service is not expected to be shut down, a Cox spokeswoman said. Meanwhile, Charter Communications, based in St. Louis, reportedly is negotiating its own deal to prevent a service disruption.
Comcast serves thousands of customers in the District of Columbia, suburban Maryland, and several counties in Northern Virginia. Cox serves only Fairfax County; its 35,000 high-speed Internet customers there were never in danger of losing connections because they are serviced by Roadrunner, not AtHome.
Specific details about the agreements with AtHome were not disclosed as of late yesterday. But there were indications that the agreements would be short-term and designed only to give the cable companies time to complete their own high-speed networks.
Both Cox and Comcast have said they are working feverishly on networks so that they may be completed within several months.
"We … have been working to develop a Comcast-managed network that will provide you the always-on cable-powered, high-speed Internet service you've come to enjoy," Comcast told its customers. "We will make this new service available as quickly as possible and will provide you with more details in future correspondence."
It was not clear what the effects of a full transfer to proprietary networks would mean to those Cox customers in Fairfax County who use Roadrunner service. A spokesman for AOL Time Warner cable, which owns Roadrunner, said he didn't know what effect Cox's business plans might have on Roadrunner, but that experience proved the switch from a provider like Roadrunner to a proprietary network could be done without disruptions.
A spokesman for Cox's Fairfax office did not return phone calls for comment.
Meanwhile, other companies were looking to capitalize on the struggles of the cable providers. Covad Communications, a Santa Clara, Calif. provider of digital subscriber line (DSL) service, announced yesterday it was offering free dial-up service, with a $225 rebate for DSL equipment costs.

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