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Publication Date: Wednesday Nov 8, 2000

TELECOMMUNICATIONS: End of the road for ISP Channel

Internet provider expected to drop Palo Alto service

by Jennifer Kavanaugh

The high-speed Internet company ISP Channel is expected to stop its Palo Alto-area operations by the end of the year, leaving open the question of who would provide service to the company's 3,000 local subscribers. Since August, AT&T Broadband has managed the local cable lines and wired ISP Channel Internet service into local homes and businesses.

AT&T spokesman Andrew Johnson confirmed reports that had been circulating in the community for several weeks that ISP Channel would be giving up providing Internet service in Palo Alto.

While early reports have stated that AT&T would take over all aspects of the local Internet service, Johnson said Monday afternoon that the telecommunications giant hadn't yet decided how it would handle the change.

"We've just heard about this, and since then we've been scrambling to come up with a plan," Johnson said. "We're faced with putting together a plan to serve those customers the ISP Channel is leaving high and dry."

Johnson would not elaborate on what options AT&T is considering, including whether it would manage the system entirely itself or contract work out to another provider. Johnson confirmed that AT&T and the ISP Channel were meeting to discuss the situation on Tuesday, Nov. 7, after the Weekly went to press.

This latest news emerged only a couple of weeks after SoftNet Systems Inc., the ISP Channel's parent company, announced it was restructuring the Internet service provider and evaluating its contracts with local communities, including the Palo Alto area.

The ISP Channel would not comment publicly on the situation, although an ISP official confirmed that the company planned to end local service. SoftNet Systems did not return a phone call for this story.

According to several sources with knowledge of the situation, AT&T and the ISP Channel have experienced a rocky relationship since AT&T bought the physical cable system from Cable Co-op earlier this year. In August and October, many of the ISP Channel's customers experienced frequent outages, causing public frustration and calls for the government to intervene.

Though the situation appears mostly resolved at this point, it caused officials at the three companies--ISP, AT&T and Cable Co-op--to point fingers at each other for the problems.

AT&T says its technicians have been working to fix problems with the system and ultimately plans to build a $20 million fiber-optic cable system in Palo Alto within the next three years. 

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