WASHINGTON — Bell Atlantic Corp. on Tuesday asked the Federal Communications Commission to suspend two pending requests to offer video programming over its communications network, saying "significant technological and other developments" have caused it to re-evaluate its plans.
A company spokesman said the cost and quality of fiber-optic technology has improved so much that it may scuttle plans to offer video over a "hybrid" network of coaxial cable and fiber and instead build a more advanced network based on switched digital fiber-optics alone. The hair-thin strands of fiber-optic cable can carry thousands of times more data than the copper wire that now makes up most communications networks.
Bell Atlantic's apparent change of heart is significant because it may mean that potential rivals such as cable TV firms, whose coaxial cable networks are more modern than the phone companies' existing copper wire networks, may soon find themselves a generation behind in technology.
Both phone companies and cable operators have been rushing to build advanced, high-speed networks for phone, video and data communications.
Under FCC rules, phone companies are required to disclose that technology they will use to deliver the new video service called "video dial tone." It was unclear Tuesday how many other phone companies share Bell Atlantic's change of heart. But an FCC spokeswoman said no other regional Bell phone company has so far moved to suspend their video applications.
Company spokesman Eric Rabe said Bell Atlantic will decide in the next few weeks whether to file a new application with the FCC to build a switched digital fiber-optic network.