UPC plays chello to local hicks

According to Mitch Clarke, the local managing director for sales and affiliate operations for chello, an international ISP, the company hopes to provide broadband internet access to over 2.1 million regional Australian homes by the end of 2000.chello, which has operations in six European countries, is a wholly owned subsidiary of the 10 per cent Microsoft-owned UPC.

The company's Australian operation will provide internet access via partnering pay TV operator Austar's existing satellite and MMDS (multichannel multipoint distribution service) network.

The broadband ISP said it provided three tiers of news and information content: global, national and local/regional. Content was currently available in nine languages, Clarke said.

The ISP's content partners include BBC and AAP. Additionally, Peter Alexander, the ISP's local MD, said the company was "in discussions" with the ABC regarding a nonexclusive content deal. Details of the proposed ABC partnership were not yet finalised, he said.

The cost of the service locally will be a flat rate of $65 per month, with no download or time limits. Installation costs $95 for existing Austar customers and $199 for new subscribers.

The service, which chello says will provide around 30 customised homepages for regional Australian towns, will be available initially to Albury, Mackay, Bendigo and other rural locations. Officials said the company was "speaking with partners" with a view to "expanding" the ISP's local penetration by the end of the year.

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