Digital Digs High-Tech Homes for the Information Age

Never before have there been so many ways to become "wired" in The Big Apple. Innovative companies are readying New York City’s co-ops and condos for the new millennium by making state-of-the-art electronic amenities a mere click away from realization. These "bundled services" provide co-op and condo residents packages of high-tech building features, such as local and long distance phone service, multiple TV channels, video conferencing and internet service that zooms to your computer screen in the blink of an eye. According to Howard Slavin, asset manager of the New York real estate investment firm, Allied Partners, "No sophisticated buyer today would move into a building that didn’t have some type of satellite and high-speed internet access."

Individual contractors may be hired to install each service, or one company will bid to provide the whole package. To prepare a building for bundled services, if pathways are not already present, companies will drill vertically through the center of your building (called "core drilling"), through dumb waiter shafts, elevators or utility closets, to install the wires. The process is similar for buildings under construction and pre-existing properties. Wires can be hidden from view by placing new molding around them, entailing minor construction. After that, horizontal cabling is passed onto each floor and into each apartment. If and when service providers work within an individual unit, the average visit is 45 minutes.

Telephone Service

Local and long distance phone service are features of wired buildings. Although the standard for local service is still Bell Atlantic, many smaller players are getting into the action. Bell, which hopes to provide long distance service soon, either bulk-bills a co-op as a whole, or charges residents directly.

"Some buildings offer integrated cable–meaning several services run along the same cable lines," notes Owen Kurtin, a telecommunications lawyer and partner in the New York office of Duane, Morris & Heckscher. Kurtin’s own 272-unit dwelling in the Upper East Side uses a proprietary phone service (it belongs to the company providing the bundled services–RCN in his case). All of RCN’s services and wiring are their own–they compete "head-to-head with the incumbent providers," says Jim Maiella, RCN spokesperson. Their package includes local and long distance phone service, cable TV, and high speed Internet access, as well as traditional dial-up access. Although customers are billed separately for each service (except for long distance phone service, which shows up on their local service phone bill), RCN is working on a merged bill to make paying more convenient.

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