Excite@Home $355M deal keeps cable services going

Bankrupt cable Internet provider Excite@Home Inc. reached agreements on Monday with some of its cable network operator customers that mean more than a million cable Internet subscribers will keep their service, for the immediate future at least.

Both Cox Communications Inc. and Comcast Cable Communications Inc. said they had signed deals under which they would each pay $160 million [m] for three months of service. Rogers Cable Inc. said it had also signed a deal with Excite@Home and another operator, Insight Communications Co. Inc., said it had agreed to pay $10 million [m] for three months of service. Insight said in a statement the four companies and Mediacom Communications Corp. had together agreed to pay $355 million [m] to Excite@Home.

The agreements need to be approved by Judge Thomas E. Carlson. of the 9th Circuit or the U.S. District Court for the District of Northern California. A decision on whether to approve the deals or not is expected within 20 days, said Insight.

Continuation of service from Excite@Home had been in doubt after Judge Carlson ruled Friday that the company could cease service from midnight that day. The company's creditors had filed for the ability to shut down operations as part of their continuing search for a buyout or to enable them to renegotiate contracts with cable network operators.

The company pulled the plug on AT&T Corp. in the early hours of Saturday morning after talks over a possible takeover broke down, a move that left 850,000 AT&T subscribers without cable Internet service. However, service has remained largely uninterrupted for other cable network operators.

The company's future remains in doubt. Cox, Comcast, Rogers and Insight all said the service agreements signed Monday will be used to provide stop-gap service while they switch customers from the Excite@Home service to their own service offerings.

Cox has 575,000 subscribers to its cable Internet service and, at the end of Septmember, Comcast had just under 800,000 subscribers , Insight had 60,000 high speed data subscribers, Rogers had 422,000 subscribers and Mediacom had 98,000 subscribers.

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