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PacTel Gets Cable-TV Franchises Abroad : Wins 2 Licenses in Great Britain, Presses for Clearance in Chicago

Times Staff Writer

Pacific Telesis moved another step Monday toward its goal of becoming a major player in the cable television business at home and abroad.

The San Francisco-based company said the Cable Authority of Great Britain awarded franchises to a pair of companies in which Pacific Telesis has about a 50% interest. The franchises authorize construction of cable systems to serve 140,000 homes overall in the cities of Norwich and Peterborough, each about 100 miles northeast of London.

Last November, the company joined with Jones Intercable of Englewood, Colo., an international cable management firm, to buy East London Telecommunications. The venture is licensed to serve about 380,000 homes and provides local telephone service in London’s new Dockside development area.

Plans to Seek Waiver

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Pacific Telesis, the parent of Pacific Bell, is forbidden from providing cable service in the United States under the terms of the 1984 settlement that broke up American Telephone & Telegraph. But company spokeswoman Susan Rosenberg said Pacific Telesis plans to file for a waiver from U.S. District Judge Harold H. Greene, who oversees the AT&T; breakup agreement. If granted, the company could exercise a four-year option that it acquired last April to acquire 68% of a cable operation serving Chicago.

The National Cable Television Assn. opposes such a waiver, claiming that Pacific Telesis and the six other so-called Baby Bell companies would have an unfair advantage over competing cable TV companies because of their local telephone monopolies. But the nation’s biggest cable operator, Tele-Communications Inc., took a more moderate position, saying it would not oppose a waiver if cable operations were restricted to markets outside the Baby Bell’s local service area.

Pacific Telesis’ partner in its new British cable ventures is Masada UK Cable Partners, a cable operator based in Birmingham, Ala. Masada ranks among the top 100 companies operating multiple cable systems, serving 60,000 subscribers in urban markets mostly in the southeastern United States.

“With the addition of these franchises, Pacific Telesis International is now licensed to provide cable service to over half a million homes” in Britain, said C. Lee Cox, group president of Pacific Telesis’ unregulated operations. Cox called cable “an excellent long-term business opportunity in Western Europe.”

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