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@Homes September 31 Deadline Nears

9/12/1999 8:00 PM Eastern

As typos go, there have been worse.

@Work, the business-to-business unit of Excite@Home,
dispatched a dramatic postcard offering $795 T-1 service if you order by "September
31st '99."

That's right: Sept. 31, in highlighted type, at the
top of the card. The deadline was more prominent than features such as scalable 5 gigabits
per second, dual OC-48 backbone or "infrastructure powered by AT&T" and
"Cisco-powered network." The Sept. 31 date appeared on both sides of the card.

My calendar won't hit Sept. 31 in this or any
foreseeable year. An awful lot of copy editors must have forgotten the school-daze rhyme:
"30 days has September, April, June and November."

But the most disappointing part of the deal is that callers
who want to sign up for @Work's $795 offer are told that the real deadline is Sept.
30 -- in other words, one day sooner than the offer suggests. So you better hurry!

Now I know it's dangerous for a writer to toss
copy-editing bricks, lest I get nailed next time I err (and there will be a next time,
based on past text gaffes).

Nonetheless, @Work's date lapse comes at a time when
the high-speed-access market -- especially for the small-business market targeted here --
is absolutely frenetic. Any credibility gap can be hazardous.

Digital-subscriber-line sales are exploding. There's
rapidly increasing competition from entrenched Bell companies, and especially from the
growing field of "DLECs," also called "data CLECs" (competitive
local-exchange carriers).

Collectively, these telco-based services expect to reach
about 500,000 customers this year and upward of 3 million U.S. customers by the end of
2000.

In other words, DSL-service providers are trailing
cable-modem services by about one year, but catching up fast (last year at this time, DSL
was about 18 months behind cable-modem service).

Indeed, the cable-modem rollout is spurring DSL operators
to escalate their campaigns.

One unconfirmable gauge is Cisco's sales of DSL
facilities. When cable-modem service debuts in a market, Cisco allegedly gets a fivefold
increase in orders for DSL equipment from the incumbent telco in that area.

Admittedly, DSL providers are having their share of
installation hassles. DLECs that are not facilities-based are particularly having problems
setting up services in parts of town where Bell companies control the wires. Nonetheless,
DSL is proving to be an easy sell to bandwidth-hungry businesses.

RBOCs and DLECs are aggressively pursuing the business DSL
market.

For example, InterAccess, a six-year-old Chicago-area
Internet-service provider, has repositioned itself as a data CLEC, trying to beat
Ameritech into selected Midwest markets.

The company acknowledges that "cable modems will be
the technology of choice for the home," but it insists that "DSL is the best
option for the business market." Like other DLECs, InterAccess is bundling its DSL
package with local-area network, hosting and other business-solution packages.

Meanwhile, the RBOCs are trying to be creative in their DSL
offers.

For example, Pacific Bell has teamed up with IBM to sell a
DSL-ready IBM "Aptiva" computer pre-loaded with DSL service.

During the just-launched pilot program in the San Francisco
area, Pacific Bell is waiving installation and equipment costs of $198 when a customer
purchases the IBM Aptiva (priced at about $950 to $1,400) and signs up for one year of
Pacific Bell DSL service. The companies claim that the package will be available to 1.9
million homes and businesses in the Bay area.

Bell Atlantic has announced similar PC-DSL bundling
programs, although results have apparently been sketchy.

Pacific Bell's parent company, SBC Communications --
which is finishing its acquisition of Ameritech -- claims that throughout its regions, 9.8
million homes and businesses will be DSL "serveable" before 2000 begins.

SBC says it receives 7,000 inquiries per day about DSL, and
it is just beginning its tie-in campaigns with Dell Computer, Compaq Computer and
enterprises that want to connect DSL into existing high-speed LAN and work-at-home
applications.

BellSouth is advancing the stakes with symmetrical DSL
(SDSL) offerings at higher-than-T-1 speeds. Its five versions of DSL -- in the $140- to
$850-per-month range -- are aimed at pushing its services deep into enterprises of all
sizes.

As another reminder of high-speed competition, this
week's Networld + InterOp trade show in Atlanta will showcase countless DSL products.

Conexant Systems, the Rockwell spinoff, is rolling out DSL
chip sets. It insists that the battle has just begun, with rivals such as Lucent, Texas
Instruments and Alcatel also escalating their efforts to equip carriers and service
providers with affordable DSL technology. And Cabletron will tie new high-speed wireless
equipment to business LANs, again with Internet access in mind.

Appropriately, it's a fast-moving market. Given the
appeal of big bandwidth, it's worth hurrying into the market -- especially if you
show up on the right day.

I-Way Patrol columnist Gary Arlen wonders if anyone tried
to take @Work's extra September day out of Hell Week.

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