AT&T plans TV service to area

AT&T installs new U-verse technology for providing cable TV, including HD, and high-speed internet service.

AT&T plans to bring its self- proclaimed "better-than-cable" television service to the Lowcountry.

Exactly when and exactly where, the telecommunications giant won't say. But this month the Dallas-based company filed with the S.C. Secretary of State's office for a video franchise, and moved forward with getting municipalities in Charleston, Berkeley and Dorchester counties to sign off.

The U-Verse setup runs on an Internet Protocol network, meaning the company pipes in only what the customer requests, according to AT&T officials. The technology includes an extensive high-definition channel lineup and also allows a single digital video recorder to work on as many as four television sets.

"It's a competitor to cable, but I wouldn't call it 'cable,' " AT&T Public Affairs Director Clifton Metcalf said.

AT&T already started rolling out service in the Columbia and Greenville-Spartanburg areas, according to company spokeswoman Sue Sperry.

She said rates start at $49 per month in other Southeastern markets, and that customers can bundle home phone, Internet and cell phone services.

Sperry said AT&T launches its U-Verse service in phases, and that local residents might see the company working on building up the necessary infrastructure now.

"We invest significantly in U-Verse before we have a single customer," she said. "We build it, and they will come."

Sperry declined to share the cost of that investment or the number of subscribers to existing AT&T services in the area.

"It's a competitive business," she said. "We're finally bringing competition to cable."

Philadelphia-based Comcast dominates local cable service, while Georgia-based provider Knology continues to promise expansions in the area.

Bill Watson, Comcast's vice president and general manager in Charleston, said the company serves about 120,000 customers in Charleston and Berkeley counties.

He said his company offers more video-on-demand, more high-definition programming and a continually increasing speed of online services.

A Knology spokesman said Monday afternoon he could not comment.

AT&T faces a timeline in its U-Verse launch. Once local municipalities set franchise rates and the Secretary of State grants the operation, the company must begin service within a year or else file again.

Reach Allyson Bird at 937-5594 or abird@postandcourier.com.