As described this week by executives attending the National Cable & Telecommunications Association's annual show here, someone watching TV will soon be able to answer incoming calls, direct them to voice mail, or even screen them using caller ID, all through their televisions.
Cox's service is expected by the end of the year. Time Warner Cable executives didn't specify a debut date.
Managing phones calls using TV is made possible, in part, by new developments in on-screen telephony from Moxi, Scientific-Atlanta, Motorola, Digeo and other providers of set-top boxes, which cable operators distribute to customers. A caller ID feature is also available within many PCs running Windows XP Media Center Edition, an entertainment-oriented version of XP that has sold about 1.4 million copies.
Cable operators are willing to design new services around the latest set-top boxes to gain an edge in battles with their chief rivals, the four Bell operating phone companies.
Of the four Bells, only Qwest Communications International has been using its copper network to offer caller ID that appears on the television screen.