The main board of AT&T, meeting on Saturday, opted to continue talking to suitors for its cable television business [WAMN: 04-Dec-01], while promising a decision before the year end.

A new round of negotiations is now tabled with the four Romeos ogling AT&T Broadband – three rival cable networks (AOL Time Warner, Comcast and Cox) and Microsoft which has vowed to oust AOL from the contest – either by a co-investment with one or both of the other bidders or itself taking a substantial direct stake in Broadband.

AT&T’s decision to keep talking overrides its earlier declaration that it regarded the offers already tabled by the suitor quartet as “final”. The next round in the poker game is expected to trigger a substantial rise in the stakes.

Separately, AT&T Broadband announced Friday it had completed switching 850,000 former Excite@Home users to its new high-speed internet network, less than one week after Excite withdrew its service from the telecoms titan.

Although over 500,000 customers of the now bankrupt Excite have downloaded AT&T’s configuration software and 475,000 accessed their new email accounts, AT&T acknowledged that others have encountered difficulties. It promised to automatically credit any former Excite customers experiencing an interruption of service with two days of free usage for every day of interruption.

News sources: Financial Times; (USA)