As of March 31, 1999 we provided Internet access to approximately 100
commercial customers. We actively market our cable modem service to businesses
in every one of our systems where we have the capability to offer such service.
Our marketing efforts are often door-to-door, and we have established a separate
division whose function is to make businesses aware that this type of Internet
access is available through us. We also provide several virtual local area
networks, which permit networks of computers to be connected within an area,
established for municipal and educational facilities including Cal Tech, the
City of Pasadena and the City of West Covina in our Los Angeles cluster.
- TV-BASED INTERNET ACCESS THROUGH WORLDGATE. We have a non-exclusive
agreement with WorldGate to provide its TV-based e-mail and Internet access to
our cable customers. WorldGate's technology is only available to cable systems
with two-way capability. WorldGate offers easy, low-cost Internet access to
customers at connection speeds ranging up to 128 kilobits per second. For a
monthly fee, we provide our customers e-mail and Internet access without using a
PC, obtaining an additional telephone line or tying up an existing line, or
purchasing any additional equipment. Instead, the customer accesses the Internet
through the set-top box, which the customer already has on his television set,
and a wireless keyboard, that is provided with the service, which interfaces
with the box. WorldGate works on both advanced analog and digital platforms and,
therefore, can be installed utilizing the analog converters already deployed. In
contrast, other converter-based, non-PC Internet access products require a
digital platform and a digital converter prior to installation.
Subscribers who opt for television-based Internet access are generally
first-time users who prefer this more user-friendly interface. Of these users,
41% use WorldGate at least once a day, and 76% use it at least once a week.
Although the WorldGate service bears the WorldGate brand name, the Internet
"domain name" of the subscribers who use this service is "Charter.net." This
allows the customer to switch or expand to our other Internet services without a
change of e-mail address.
We first offered WorldGate to subscribers on the upgraded portion of our
systems in St. Louis in April 1998. We are also currently offering this service
in our systems in Logan, Utah, Maryville, Illinois and Newtown, Connecticut, and
plan to introduce it in eight additional systems by December 31, 1999. Charter
Communications, Inc. owns a minority interest in WorldGate. See "Certain
Relationships and Related Transactions." As of March 31, 1999, we provided
WorldGate Internet service to approximately 1,800 customers.
WINK-ENHANCED PROGRAMMING. We have formed a relationship with Wink, which
sells technology to embed interactive features, such as additional information
and statistics about a program or the option to order an advertised product,
into programming and advertisements. A customer with a Wink-enabled set-top box
and a Wink-enabled cable provider sees an icon flash on the screen when
additional Wink features are available to enhance a program or advertisement. By
pressing the select button on a standard remote control, a viewer of a
Wink-enhanced program is able to access additional information regarding such
program, including, for example, information on prior episodes or the program's
characters. A viewer watching an advertisement would be able to access
additional information regarding the advertised product and may also be able to
utilize the two-way transmission features to order a product. We have bundled
Wink service with our traditional cable services in both our advanced analog and
digital platforms. Wink services are provided free of charge. A company
controlled by Paul G. Allen has made an equity investment in Wink. See "Certain
Relationships and Related Transactions."