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Cary Unveils Plan To Create Fiber-Optic Network

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CARY — Life in suburbia may change to "cyburbia."Caryresidents may soon have the choice to "get connected" and become an electronic village.

Patricia Berkowitz used to be a cable customer. She did not like the cost and channel selection so she switched to satellite TV.

"It just seemed kind of unfair. When you go out to the Outer Banks, you rent a beach house for the week, and you get the Disney Channel because it is part of the basic package," Berkowitz says. "When you have children, that is something that is nice to have."

With more than 70 percent of residents hooked up to cable, the town of Cary is looking for ways to bring in more competition.

"Certainly what brought it to a head was negotiations withTime Warner," says Bill Stice, staff liaison for the fiber-optic overlay project. "In particular, some complaints that they had gotten about lack of choices, poor service and other issues that have been made publicly before the council."

The plan is to wire the town with fiber optics. It would not only provide cable, but phone and Internet service as well.

"Today, it is really difficult to find high-speed, reasonably priced Internet service, and we would like to provide high-bandwidth type Internet service to the home," Stice says.

Originally, Cary was looking to provide the cable service themselves, but the plan released on Tuesday shows that it is more cost-effective for a private company to provide it.

"I was hoping from the beginning that we would find a private sector solution because I would rather see the marketplace come in and provide competition rather than our doing it," says councilwoman Marla Dorrel.

Under the plan, customers would receive a discount for purchasing two or more services. By purchasing two, they receive a 5 percent discount. By purchasing three, they receive a discount of 10 percent.

The plan would make Cary the first town in the United States that would be linked by a fiber-optic network.

Blacksburg, Va. was one of the first communities in the nation to become an "electronic village" calledBevnet.

By the summer of 1997, more than 60 percent of Blacksburg's 600,000 residents were on the network. More than 250 business were on the Web. Bevnet sells everything from clothing to real estate in its virtual mall; it also offers videoconferencing.


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