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Cable Service Coming to Dorms

By Eric Richard
Associate News Editor

Students living on campus can expect MIT Cable to offer expanded service by the second week of classes, incorporating channels from Continental Cablevision, including the Cable News Network and Music Television.

Anthony Price, marketing manager for Continental Cablevision, plans to officially announce the new services during the week of Sept. 6, and have Continental sales representatives on campus between Sept. 13 and 24 to take orders.

Various packages will be available to students, in addition to the current MIT Cable programming. The basic package, available to students for approximately $10 per month, will include news, education, and variety packages in addition to community programming and educational, municipal, and community access channels.

The news package is set to include CNN, CNN Headline News, C-SPAN 1, and C-SPAN 2, while the education package is comprised of the Arts and Entertainment Network and the Discovery Channel. MTV, ESPN, Nickelodeon, Turner Network Television, the TBS SuperStation, and the USA Network will make up the variety package.

In addition to the cable networks available, Boston's network affiliates (WGB* Channel 2, WBZ Channel 4, WCVB Channel 5, and WHD* Channel 7) and independent stations (WFXT Channel 25, WSBK Channel 38, WGBX Channel 44, and WQTV Channel 68) will be provided under the basic package.

Students will also have the option of adding premium channels, like Home Box Office, Showtime, the SportsChannel, Cinemax, the Movie Channel, and the New England Sports Network at an additional monthly fee. According to Price, Continental plans to offer packages including multiple premium channels at discounted rates.

Subscribers will also be able to order pay-per-view events through Continental.

Currently MIT Cable is experiencing some temporary outages, according to Randall W. Winchester, facilities coordinator for Telecommunication Systems. The outages have been caused by maintenance to install new cables and amplifiers to make way for the new channels, and "provide more reliable service" by troubleshooting the current system. Winchester said he "certainly hopes that service will be available once again by the middle of next week."

Price expects to notify students of the new services by distributing a letter through campus mailboxes. He then plans to use a direct mailing to inform students more generally about cable services and Continental Cablevision in particular.

Between Sept. 13 and 24, Price expects that Cablevision will have sales people at scheduled distribution points across campus, with each distribution point serving specific dormitories.

Although installation normally costs $57, students who sign up during the initial offering will get installation for $5.

Students will also be able to call Continental directly anytime before Oct. 15 and have the services installed for $20.

Price said that Cablevision currently serves almost 50 percent of the homes in the Cambridge area and expects that approximately the same proportion of on campus residence will eventually be receiving cable services.

Price said the MIT community is ideal for this type of expansion. "These people are now part of the cable generation. They've grown up on cable," Price said. "They figure they have electricity, and thus they should have cable."

Students ordering the expanded service will be provided with a converter to receive and de-scramble the additional signals. However, service will be limited to on campus housing as Continental only serves the Cambridge area.

While Price said it will be possible for lounges and other public areas to receive the additional services at an increased rate, he indicated that not all premium stations would be available in such a forum because of contractual agreements between Continental and the networks.

Winchester said that he would have to look into which premium services will be available for such a public location and how this will affect service to some on campus fraternities, which solely have wiring to public locations.

Winchester has already begun seeing interest saying, "People are asking me about it constantly," and some students have already begun contact Continental asking when the services would be available.

Nearly 80 percent of undergraduates responding to a survey taken last November by MIT Cable said that they would be interested in additional cable services.

The planned packages, as described by Price, seem to meet much of the student's demand for outside programming. In the November survey, CNN, CNN Headline News, MTV, ESPN, and the Discovery Channel were the most preferred channels, and all would be available under the expanded service.

The survey was just one part of the project of expanding MIT Cable's lineup which has been an ongoing process for the past year with MIT Cable replacing some of its amplifiers and testing equipment for quality.