IRVING, Texas. In a ruling Jan. 13, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia declared that GTE Telephone Operations has the right to provide video programming to the company's in-franchise customers.
The court's decision means that GTE now is permitted to offer video programming over its own video dialtone networks, now in development, and can operate closed cable television systems in locations where it also provides local telephone service.
"This is a victory, not only for GTE but for consumers throughout our serving areas," said Bob Calafell, vice president-Video Services for GTE Telephone Operations. "This decision makes real competition possible in the residential video services market. The result will be better customer service, wider product offerings and downward pressure on prices. At this point, we urge the Federal Communications Commission to expeditiously approve our pending applications to build video dialtone networks in key markets."
The court granted GTE's motion, filed Dec. 27, 1994, that Section 613(b) of the Cable Communications Policy Act of 1984, 47 U.S.C. 533(b) (the Statute), was unconstitutional. The court also entered a permanent injunction enjoining enforcement of the statute against GTE.
"We are very excited about the opportunities presented by this decision," said Kent Foster, vice chairman of GTE Corp. and president of GTE Telephone Operations. "Opening the video marketplace to competition is one of the first building blocks in making the National Information Infrastructure into a reality for all Americans. Now we can use our market position, financial strength and network-management expertise to extend a full range of world-class services to the residential market."
GTE Video Services: Past And Future
In 1991, GTE Telephone Operations became the first telephone company in the United States to offer interactive video services. The company's Cerritos Project, in Cerritos, Calif., was the world's first comprehensive test of interactive video technology and services. Offerings included video on demand, videophone, enhanced video-education applications, and a CD-Interactive test by GTE Interactive Media (formerly GTE ImagiTrek). Center Screen, a 30-channel pay-per-view system, and GTE mainStreet, an interactive cable television service, are still available and in use by customers.
Expanding on this success, the company in 1994 announced plans to build video networks in 66 key markets in the next 10 years. When completed, the new network will pass 7 million homes and will provide broadcast, cable and interactive television programming.
GTE Telephone Operations will invest about $250 million to build broadband video networks in four markets during 1995. GTE's pending applications seek authority to build hybrid fiber-optic and coaxial-cable video networks in Ventura County, Calif.; St. Petersburg and Clearwater, Fla.; Honolulu, Hawaii; and northern Virginia.
The 1995 video investments are in addition to the approximately $2.7 billion GTE spends each year to upgrade and maintain its national telecommunications network.
GTE Telephone Operations is the largest U.S.-based local telephone company, providing voice, video and data products and services through more than 22 million access lines in portions of the United States, Canada, South America, the Caribbean and the Pacific. GTE Telephone Operations, based in Irving, Texas, had total revenues of $15.8 billion in 1993. Its parent organization, GTE Corporation, is the fourth-largest publicly owned telecommunications company in the world.