"We may go it alone or take on partners," said Caroline Vanderlip, president at AT&T Personal Online Services. "Everybody's talking to everybody."
AT&T is just one of several major players seeking to carve out a niche providing local online information. Microsoft Corp. is gearing up its Cityscape effort, and America Online and Tribune Co. earlier this month joined together to form a unit, Digital Cities, to exploit the market. AT&T Ventures also has a stake in City Search, a startup that has a presence in North Carolina, Pasadena, Calif., and New York.
"We've talked to each of the major players about working together, including the regional Bell companies and large media companies," said Charles Conn, president, CEO of CitySearch. "We still don't know which companies will end up being major players."
HOMETOWN TO HIT NEW ENGLAND
AT&T is testing Hometown Network in Sacramento with 20 content providers ranging from the local CBS affiliate to Sacramento Magazine to the Boy Scouts. The service is available to 250 users, and AT&T expects to ramp up to 800 testers in a few weeks. AT&T also this summer will launch its second Hometown Network test, in the New England area, possibly Wellesley, Mass.
AT&T HEALTHSITE FOR SALE
Content for the Hometown Network will build off of other efforts from Ms. Vanderlip's division. Users could access a regional edition of AT&T Healthsite, for example, for information about physicians (http://www.atthealthsite.com).
Separately, Ms. Vanderlip said she expects AT&T will spin off the majority of Healthsite to outside investors within a month. Partners include MediLife, Rodale Press and IVI Publishing.
Contributing: Kim Cleland.