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10 million homes in Net TV test

Cablevision, Comcast, and three other operators will broadcast the Web to 10 million households through TVs beginning in January.

WorldGate Communications has signed up five cable companies with a combined customer base of 10 million households to participate in its online TV trials set to start in January.

The company, which has developed a cable television-based Internet access service that works without requiring PCs or revamped set-top boxes, said it has signed up Cablevision Systems, Adelphia Communications, Charter Communications, Comcast Cable Communications, and Telewest Communications Scotland. Telewest is owned mostly by US West and TCI.

WorldGate said consumers will pay around $4.95 a month for the high-speed connection direct to their television screens. The company also plans to offer hyperlinks to the Web sites of advertisers and television shows, chat lines, email, and an online community center of Web sites offering local events, entertainment options, and classified ads.

The company, which is targeting consumers with no computer experience, will use advanced analog cable converters that received data at speeds up to 100 kbps. By the spring, WorldGate said it will add digital converters for even faster connections.

Unlike other cable links to the Internet, WorldGate's broadband modem approach requires cable companies to do a limited amount of network retooling to accommodate the two-way traffic. In addition to competing with cable operators and Internet service providers, WorldGate's community centers will go up against Microsoft's Cityscape publications and other online entertainment guides.