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In the RegionComcast to invest $700 million...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

In the Region

Comcast to invest $700 million in mid-Atlantic region

Comcast Corp., the No. 3 U.S. cable television company, said it will spend $700 million to upgrade systems serving the mid-Atlantic region so it can add features such as fast Internet access and telephone service.

The systems, Suburban Cable and Garden State Cable, were renamed Comcast Cable. They cover 1.3 million customers in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland. Comcast acquired the businesses when it bought Lenfest Communications Inc. in January for $7.5 billion.

Comcast said it will upgrade 23,000 miles of lines to fiber-optic cable, enabling Comcast to sell high-speed Web access, telephone service and digital TV to its new customers. Comcast's digital TV service has about 200 TV channels, 45 channels of CD-quality music, interactive program guides and clearer pictures and sound than traditional cable TV.

Aether teams with UMBC on wireless curriculum

Aether Systems Inc. said yesterday that it is investing $510,000 in a wireless education partnership with the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Aether, a wireless data systems company based in Owings Mills, will work with the university's engineering faculty to develop a wireless curriculum. The research grant also will sponsor computing seminars for students and the business community.

University spokesman Charles Rose called the Aether grant "the first leg in a long collaboration." He said Aether chose the school because of its entrepreneurial bent. It also helps to have a well-placed alumnus; Aether Chairman and Chief Executive Officer David Oros is a graduate of the school.

WorldCare, American Life form partnership

WorldCare Inc., a Boston-based company that directs telemedicine consultations to Johns Hopkins and other prestigious medical centers, announced a partnership yesterday with a multinational insurer that WorldCare said could double its business in the first year.

The contract, with American Life Insurance Co., a subsidiary of American International Group, will cover 750,000 insured people in 16 countries in Latin America, the Middle East and Eastern Europe. Working with physicians and hospitals around the world, WorldCare sends, electronically, patient records, lab results, X-rays and other data to Hopkins, Cleveland Clinic, Duke University Health System and a group of Boston-area hospitals including Massachusetts General.

WorldCare handles about 2,500 consultations a year. Hopkins receives about 130 of those cases.

Retired Bethlehem chief joins Skadden law firm

Curtis H. "Hank" Barnette, who retired as chairman and chief executive of Bethlehem Steel Corp. last month at age 65, is joining the law firm of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP.

Barnette will begin June 1 at the New York firm's Washington office, where he will focus on corporate law, corporate governance, international trade and public policy.

Barnette received his law degree from Yale Law School and later attended Harvard University Business School. He joined Bethlehem as an attorney in 1967.

Elsewhere

FCC chief calls action very near on AT&T;, MediaOne cable deal

The Federal Communications Commission is nearing a decision on a merger that would position telephone giant AT&T; Corp. as the nation's top cable TV company, officials said yesterday.

The proposed deal between AT&T; and MediaOne Group Inc. has raised concerns at the agency about how much control over programming the combined entity would be able to exercise. For that reason, FCC staff have proposed actions the companies could take to complete the deal, while complying with federal limits on how many cable households one entity can reach.

The recommendations are before the five commissioners, who could decide the matter in the near future, the agency's chief said.

Cisco says SEC probing ArrowPoint stock jump

Cisco Systems Inc. said the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating possible insider trading in ArrowPoint Communications Inc. shares, which rose 27 percent the day before Cisco unveiled plans to buy the company.

Cisco, the largest maker of computer-networking equipment, and Internet switch maker ArrowPoint announced the acquisition Friday about 8 a.m. Messages on Yahoo! Inc.'s Internet chat boards Thursday night indicate word may have been leaked about the purchase, now valued at $5.55 billion.

J.P. Morgan Securities Inc.'s Greg Geiling, who was named a top telecommunications-equipment analyst last year by Institutional Investor magazine, said in a note Thursday morning that ArrowPoint's revenue will quintuple this year and more than double in 2001. Many attributed Arrow-Point's rise to Geiling's forecast. Geiling said yesterday that he was not aware of Cisco's plans to buy ArrowPoint.

Continental Airlines ranks No. 1 in poll

Readers of Frequent Flyer magazine ranked Continental No. 1 for long-haul and short-haul flights, leading second-place TWA in the poll conducted by the magazine and the survey firm JD Power and Associates.

On flights of more than 500 miles, Continental, TWA and Southwest all exceeded the industry average of 100 points on the magazine's scoring system on such factors as on-time performance, ease of airport check-in, flight attendants, seating comfort, gate factors, flight availability and scheduling, aircraft interior, frequent-flier programs and food service.

For shorter flights, Continental, TWA and Southwest also led scoring. America West, American, Delta, Northwest, US Airways and United fell below the industry average on short hauls. United scored at the industry average for long flights.

Bill would make computer tax-free as employer gift

Workers who take advantage of their employer's gift of a free computer or cut-rate Internet access would not have to pay income tax on them under legislation introduced in the House.

The legislation, sponsored by Reps. Jerry Weller, an Illinois Republican, and John Lewis, a Georgia Democrat, developed after numerous tax experts said the Internal Revenue Service would probably take its cut of the free computers being offered this year to an estimated 600,000 workers at Ford Motor Co., American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and Intel Corp.

Because the giveaways are so new, the IRS has not announced a policy on whether they count as income subject to tax. But Weller said he has spoken to employers who are delaying similar programs on the advice of tax lawyers that it would be a taxable benefit.

Deutsche tops Citibank in currency transactions

Deutsche Bank AG clinched the largest share of currency transactions this year, capitalizing on its purchase of Bankers Trust Co. to oust Citibank from a 20-year reign at the top of Euromoney magazine's annual poll.

Citibank, part of Citigroup Inc., fell to third behind Chase Manhattan Bank. Deutsche Bank, parent of Deutsche Banc Alex. Brown in Baltimore, enlarged its share of the $1.5 trillion foreign exchange market to 12.53 percent from 7.12 percent, Euromoney said. Chase controlled 8.26 percent, and Citibank had 8.07 percent.

Amazon.com holds lead for most online customers

Amazon.com Inc., the biggest Internet retailer, continued to attract the most online customers in April, followed by Ticketmaster Online-CitySearch Inc.'s Ticketmaster.com and Barnes & Noble.com Inc., according to a survey by PC Data, a Reston, Va., company that measures Internet traffic.

Amazon.com had more than 1.5 million buyers in April, Ticketmaster.com attracted 633,000 buyers, and Barnes & Noble.com attracted 439,000 buyers.

This column was compiled from reports by Sun staff writers, the Associated Press, Bloomberg News and Reuters.

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