Bell to begin digitizing of video for phone lines


Bell Atlantic Video Services, the multimedia subsidiary that is leading the phone company into the entertainment business, said yesterday that it's ready to start turning "Gone With The Wind" into a long string of ones and zeros.

The Bell Atlantic Corp. unit said it has completed construction of its Digital Services Bureau at its video services center in Reston, Va.

Larry Plumb, a spokesman for Bell Atlantic Video Services, said that on Nov. 1 the bureau would begin running a regular shift, taking studios' analog and digital videotape and turning it into digital code that can be transmitted through telephone lines.

The problem for now is that Bell Atlantic Video has nowhere to send its digitized video.

Its parent company is still waiting for the Federal Communications Commission to approve its petition -- known as a "214" -- to launch a market trial involving 1,000 homes in Northern Virginia. Mr. Plumb said Bell Atlantic Video wouldn't let that stop it from building up a library of digitized movies and syndicated situation comedies.

"We'll start operating as if we had 214 approval," he said.

Last week, the FCC rejected a petition that it delay the start of "video dial tone" services, but the agency indicated it will give individual scrutiny to each of the pending applications from phone companies. One of those is from Bell Atlantic, for commercial rollout of the services in the Baltimore area.

Frankie Russell, a Bell Atlantic Video spokeswoman, said the company would be able to start providing video services to the market-trial homes 70 days after the FCC acts.

The company said it has made vast strides in the encoding process since it started technical tests in March 1993. Its earliest encoding efforts took 78 minutes to encode one minute of video, the company said. Now that's down to four minutes for each minute of video, according to Bell Atlantic.

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