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Covad unveils small-business bundles

The telecommunications company packages its high-speed Internet access with voice service, targeting a sector that's also drawn the interest of Microsoft, AOL and Yahoo.

Covad Communications on Monday launched small-business packages that combine its high-speed Internet access with voice service.

The TeleXchange packages brings together multiple telephone lines into a high-speed DSL (digital subscriber line) connection. They will include Internet features such as a business e-mail account, IP (Internet Protocol) address flexibility, and Web hosting and domain name services. Voice service includes unlimited local calls, long-distance plans, caller ID, call waiting and three-way calling.

Pricing will vary depending on Internet access speed and the number of phone lines, according to Covad's Web site. DSL access speeds from 384kbps (kilobits per second) to 1.5mbps (megabits per second) will range between $179 and $359 a month. In addition, four-line service will cost $200 per month and eight-line service will cost $400 per month, regardless of the access speeds. A $349 equipment fee and a $525 rebate will be included in all service packages.

Initially, the service will launch solely in the San Francisco Bay Area; it is expected to be available in additional markets next year.

Monday's launch signals another step that Covad has taken to sell its data services to small businesses. The company has struggled to sell DSL access to consumers, but it successfully emerged from bankruptcy through a plan of financial restructuring. The company continues to run its consumer business and is focusing on beefing up corporate services as well.

Covad is not alone in targeting small-business customers. Internet heavyweights including America Online, Microsoft and Yahoo have turned their attention to this sector, which is considered a high-growth area. Yahoo, for instance, last week launched a Web-hosting service targeting businesses with fewer than 100 employees. AOL last month offered an altered version of its flagship online service to appeal to small-business owners.