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Fast hotel lines ready for testing

Microsoft is teaming with other companies to try technology that lets business travelers get fast Net access in hotels.

Several companies are teaming up to try out technology that will allow business travelers to get a direct link to the Internet from hotels.

Microsoft, AtCom/Info, and CGX Communications today announced they are beginning to test a high-speed access system, called IPort, in several hotels on the East and West coasts.

Many hotels competing for the lucrative business travel market are using the Internet to lure customers. While some offer a simple data port in which a traveler can plug in his or her computer, others offer in-room computers that directly hook up to the Net.

In this case, travelers who have an Ethernet card in their laptops can hook up directly onto the Net. The trials will not only test the service, but they also will help the companies determine pricing.

Five hotels are using the system, the companies said, and five more will be installed by the end of the month. The trials are expected to be completed midyear.

"Business travelers are demanding a fast, easy way to access the Internet and email, and IPort will deliver that," Stan Julien, hospitality industry marketing manager at Microsoft, said in a statement. "With IPort, laptop users won't have to preconfigure their laptop modems anymore or hassle with slow, unreliable connections."

Hotels included in the trial are in Washington state, Oregon, California, and Washington, D.C.