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Published: Monday, 11/24/2008

U-Verse, AT&T's new TV/Internet service, now in area

BY LARRY P. VELLEQUETTE
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

Toledo today becomes the fourth major market in Ohio to get access to AT&T's new

U-verse, a combination television/high-speed Internet service designed to compete with local and national cable TV and satellite services.

Already in place in the Cleveland, Columbus, and Dayton metro areas, U-verse uses a different setup than conventional cable systems to allow two-way communication and more individualized offerings, said Amanda Harris, general manager for the service in Ohio.

While traditional cable sends its offerings into a receiver box all the time, U-verve uses "switched Internet Protocol" - similar to how someone requests a specific Web page - to order the programming they want at any given time. The system allows users to access a broader range of potential programming because the provider isn't sending every channel it has into every subscriber's home.

"This system allows for a lot of customization and personalization," Ms. Harris explained.

U-verse is being launched initially in the Toledo metro area in at least nine different communities: Toledo, Holland, Ottawa Hills, Perrysburg, and Monclova, Perrysburg, Spencer, Springfield, and Sylvania townships.

Prices for television-only packages start at $44 a month, plus taxes and fees, while television and Internet packages start at $69 a month, Ms. Harris said. Digital video recording devices that can record up to four different programs simultaneously are included in the cost of most upgraded packages. For a higher cost, consumers can add unlimited phone service.

Orders can be made over the Internet and at AT&T wireless stores.

The subscription television service will compete with Buckeye CableSystem, which has been in the area since the late 1960s and carries the largest number of local subscribers. Buckeye is owned by Block Communications Inc., which is also The Blade's parent company.

Florence Buchanan, Buckeye's vice president of sales and marketing, said she is confident that Buckeye's channel offerings, pricing packages, and a new 20 megabyte per second broadband tier announced last week will retain Buckeye's customers.

The packages aren't identical, but Buckeye's basic television packages start at $48.49 a month and its television and Internet service packages start at $68.48 a month. The firm also offers local telephone service. Buckeye has a "basic" television service with about two-dozen channels for $14.15 a month.

"The majority of our customers find a lot of value in our high-speed Internet service, that's why we thought it was important to continue to be the local service provider with the highest Internet speed," Ms. Buchanan said.

Contact Larry P. Vellequette at:

lvellequette@theblade.com

or 419-724-6091.



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