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NorthPoint, Microsoft expand relationship

The duo boost by tenfold joint plans to offer high-speed Internet service with RadioShack, a significant coup for the small broadband Net company.

NorthPoint and Microsoft have expanded their joint plans to offer high-speed Internet service with RadioShack, marking a significant coup for the small broadband Net company.

The duo agreed last November to create a series of "store within a store" outlets promoting digital subscriber line (DSL) service and Microsoft products. At that time, NorthPoint was on tap to provide the broadband service underlying the Microsoft Network (MSN) connections.

The two companies have now expanded that relationship tenfold, NorthPoint said today. Once slated for just 100,000 lines, the San Francisco-based company is now under contract to provide up to 1 million broadband lines over the next four years, a spokeswoman said.

The lines will include RadioShack stores themselves as well as potential customers who sign up through the outlets or RadioShack's Web site.

That's a substantial jump for a company that had installed just 12,000 lines by the end of last September. But NorthPoint executives said they expected even more benefit from the deal as consumers sample the fast Net connections in RadioShack stores.

DSL is a technology that allows existing telephone wires to carry ordinary phone traffic and high-speed Internet services simultaneously.

"This is a logical extension of NorthPoint's existing relationships with Microsoft and RadioShack," NorthPoint CEO Michael Malaga said in a statement today. "We expect to accelerate consumer adoption of DSL by enabling millions of Americans to walk into their local RadioShack retail store starting this year, sample MSN Internet Access powered by NorthPoint DSL, and learn about its many benefits."

The NorthPoint high-speed connections will be available in more than half of RadioShack's stores nationwide by the end of the year, the company said.