U S West, Wash. State Reach Web Accord

Author:
Publish date:
Updated on

U S West Communications has reached an agreement with
Washington State regulators allowing it to launch new Internet-access technology beginning
next month.

The deal alleviates concerns raised by the Washington State
Utilities and Transportation Commission and by Internet-service providers, which feared
that the Baby Bell would lock up the local market by directing consumers to its own
Internet-access company.

USWC's new ADSL (asymmetrical digital subscriber line)
technology allows consumers to surf the Internet and talk on the phone simultaneously by
splitting the voice and data signals, which keeps heavy Internet users off the voice
network.

Under the compromise with the WSUTC, USWC will not promote
its ISP business to consumers who already have providers that are capable of handling the
new technology.

USWC has agreed to direct consumers whose ISPs cannot
handle the service to a Web page, or to the Yellow Pages, where they can find a list of
area ISPs.

After 30 days, however, if the customer still needs a
service provider, USWC is free to promote its ISP business without mentioning the
availability of other companies.

The compromise means that USWC can roll out its new ADSL
technology to consumers June 19. The state's ISPs can immediately sign up for the
service so that it will be in place on that date, said USWC spokeswoman Dana Smith.

"We believe that everybody compromised a little,"
Smith said. "In the end, we came up with a solution that everybody can live
with."

In an interview with the Tacoma News, officials for
the Washington Association of Internet Service Providers -- the 35 members of which serve
more than 500,000 customers in the state -- admitted that they had reluctantly accepted
the compromise.

"We're extremely concerned about the potential
that the monopoly phone company can become the monopoly Internet-service company,"
said association executive director Gary Gardner. "[But] we felt that it was
important to move forward and to get this service rolled out."

USWC's plans call for ADSL service to be launched
initially in Tacoma, Seattle, Spokane and Bellingham. Other markets slated to receive the
service include Auburn, Des Moines, Federal Way, Kent, Olympia, Puyallup and Renton.

The cost of the service begins at $40 per month for speeds
of 256 kilobits per second, or 10 times the speed of an average dial-up modem, increasing
from there.

Related