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Cable firm will offer Internet

April 12, 1997

By GUY FLETCHER

Staff Writer

Antietam Cable Television, Washington County's largest cable system, will begin offering Internet access and other new services by the end of this year as part of a systemwide upgrade, the company said.

The introduction of fiber-optic cables and digital compression technology also will mean superior television sound and picture quality, and a wider variety of program choices on a system that will have the capacity for 500 channels, according to a company news release.

"It's the most advanced system you are going to have anywhere today," said Cindy Garland, special projects director for Antietam Cable.

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No firm date has been released for the new services to start. Fees have yet to be determined by company, but rates for current services will not increase, Garland said.

"Obviously, we want it to be competitive, but we don't have the numbers yet," she said.

The combination of fiber-optic lines, which Antietam began installing last year, and digital compression will allow Antietam Cable to greatly expand its channel offerings to more special-interest networks featuring sports, the arts, science and more, Garland said.

The extra space will allow for enhanced pay-per-view choices, where customers will be able to pick popular movies that start every half hour throughout the day. There also will be "multiplexes" - additional channels of premium services like HBO and Showtime with different programming schedules.

"It's incredible. It's a lot more convenient and it gives the customer more choice," Garland said.

The cable Internet service will have the typical cyberspace offerings, such as e-mail, World Wide Web browser and chat rooms. And it will be able to do it at speeds much faster than conventional telephone line transmission, Garland said.

"Files that would take an hour to download will take seconds," she said.

Another advantage is that the cable Internet service doesn't tie up the telephone, nor does it keep someone from watching cable programs on their television at the same time, Garland said.

To receive the cable Internet service on their home computers, customers will have to have special cable modems, which they will be able to lease from Antietam Cable, she said.

Antietam Cable has 34,000 customers in the county.

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