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Small town tests TV, DSL combo via phone lines
HARTWELL, Georgia (CNN) -- A small town near the Georgia-South Carolina border is a testbed for technology that could change the way people receive television programs and pay-to-view movies.
The local telephone company, Hart Telephone, is offering subscribers a combination of telephone service, high-speed DSL Internet connection, and up to 60 television channels delivered over ordinary copper wire phone lines.
Television -- or "full motion video" -- over phone lines represents a breakthrough for the industry.
"Its been attempted before, but the problem has been compression technology for the video ... (and) cross-talk or interference," said Michael McInerney, Hart Telephone's executive vice president.
But scientists at the Georgia Tech Research Institute in Atlanta managed to solve the compression and cross-talk problems.
And a Connecticut company, mPhase Technologies, manufactures black, set-top boxes (each about the size of a VCR) incorporating the new technology. The company calls its product the "mPhase Traverser."
Pharmacist Bill Rogers has one mounted on a TV set hanging near the ceiling of his Hartwell Pharmacy, located in a strip mall shopping center not served by cable TV.
"The cable is 500 yards that way," said Rogers, pointing toward the back of his store. "But the cable company won't run a line over here for just one customer."
Rogers has had the mPhase Traverser system in his store for about two months.
"People will look up and I'll say, 'You know, I've got cable TV in here.' And they'll say 'Really?' And I'll say, 'Well, its actually not cable. It's through the telephone line.'"
While offering multiple TV channels over the phone line is a big draw, Hart Telephone spokespeople say many customers are attracted by the prospect of high-speed Internet access. The company maintains an office in the center of town where people can compare DSL downloads with a 56K modem on side-by-side computer screens.
Attorney Walter Gordon routinely exchanges hefty word processing documents with other lawyers over the Internet, with each side making changes.
"Just beyond belief" is the way Gordon describes the speed of his newly installed DSL connection.
Hart Telephone's McInerney said his company plans to offer combination telephone/Internet/television service at prices competitive with other ISPs and satellite television providers.
The company hopes to have 60 paying customers on line by the end of January.
Study: Subscribers want their interactive TV
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