Crossing the digital divide on copper


For Hart Telephone in Hartwell, Ga., copper wire may be the bridge to crossing the digital divide. The phone company is working with mPhase Technologies, which has a rate-adaptive DSL product that allows for transport of MPEG-2 video over standard copper phone lines, to offer cable television and DSL service to customers it otherwise wouldn't be able to reach.

"It's expensive to build a cable system, even if we can build it at $8,000 a mile," says Michael McInerney, executive vice president for Lintel, parent company of Hart Telephone and Hart Cable.

Hart Telephone and mPhase Technologies are deploying mPhase's Traverser Digital Video and Data Delivery System, offering data transmission of 6Mb/s downstream and 1 Mb/s upstream over copper wire. The $1.5 million deal will allow Hart to offer cable and DSL service to 1,000 customers.

"Some of that is fixed cost," McInerney notes. "We'll only have one headend and only one control system. Incrementally, our cost is hopefully going to be around $700 per subscriber."

Testing of the system is under way, with a number of cable networks signed on, including ESPN, Discovery, The Weather Channel and A & E. McInerney says the quality of the signal is good, with the channel-changing delay similar to digital cable but not as fast as analog.

The cable networks taking part in the test will be visiting Hart Telephone to confirm the quality of service, and, once that process is complete, McInerney says, the system will start offering the service to customers.-K.K.