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Rogers Launches Interactive TV in Canada

TORONTO — Rogers Cable Inc. has stolen the lead from its competitors with the rollout this month of Rogers Interactive TV through its extensive cable television network.

The new service — which is the product of a partnership between Rogers Cable's parent, Rogers Communications Inc. of Toronto, and Microsoft Corp., Redmond, WA — lets subscribers use their home televisions to surf the Web, send e-mails and engage in online chats. But it does so at speeds similar to that of a basic dial-up modem connection.

Some industry observers wonder whether the service will catch on at a time when Canadians are rapidly shifting to high-speed cable and DSL connectivity. Indeed, Rogers, marketer of Rogers@Home high-speed service, is an aggressive proponent of the advantages of high speed.

However, Michael Lee, vice president and general manager at Rogers Interactive Television Services, believes the product will find a customer base.

“Our customer trial in Toronto earlier this year clearly demonstrated that there is a specific market for this product,” Lee said. “Phase one of Rogers Interactive TV is an entry-level service geared specifically for people who do not have Internet access at home and who want to use the basic Internet services.”

Future generations of the service will feature faster Internet connections as well as new interactive programming.

To get Rogers Interactive TV, which is based on Microsoft WebTV Networks technologies, subscribers must pay $19.95 (Canadian) to rent a digital set-top box plus another $19.95 in monthly subscription charges. In addition, customers must purchase a wireless keyboard for $79.95.

Rogers Interactive TV is the first product to be delivered as part of a July 1999 agreement that saw Microsoft invest $600 million in Rogers.

“We're very excited to work with Rogers on this initial service,” said Alan Yates, vice president, Microsoft TV sales and marketing.

Rogers has approximately 2.2 million cable customers in Ontario and British Columbia.

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