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Tele-Communications Inc. to Subsidize Schools Project

February 07, 1996|JUBE SHIVER Jr. | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WASHINGTON — Cable giant Tele-Communications Inc. announced Tuesday that it will subsidize computers as well as training programs transmitted over cable and satellite systems to public schools.

While TCI executives predicted it will be years before the venture--called ETC w/tci--will turn a profit, they said they intend for the project to eventually become a moneymaker by nurturing interest in its products with public school students and teachers.

"At this point we don't expect this thing to be profitable for quite some years to come," TCI President John Malone said. But he added, "If this is purely philanthropy, it won't go very far."

TCI board member Tony Coelho, a former California congressman, will run the company.

TCI executives said they will launch their new venture in partnership with cable programmer Discovery Communications Inc. and software developers Softkey International Inc., Learning Co. and Compton's New Media Inc.

The venture follows a recent surge in efforts by other telecommunications companies to deliver technology to the classroom.

In the fall, AT&T Corp. pledged to give $150 million for free Internet access and voice messaging services at 110,000 schools. Bell Atlantic Corp. and Pacific Bell have also recently announced public school assistance projects. And years of supplying schools with free computers and software has given Apple Computer Inc. a 63% share of the school market.

Some boosters are now having second thoughts.

In an interview in this month's issue of Wired magazine, Apple founder Steve Jobs said: "I used to think that technology could help education. . . . But I've had to come to the inevitable conclusion that the problem is not one that technology can hope to solve. What's wrong with education cannot be fixed with technology. . . . It's a political problem. The problems are sociopolitical."

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