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Fast lines skirt telcos

Internet World High-speed Net access gets a boost from a product that bypasses switches of local phone companies.

Internet World High-speed connectivity is getting a boost again, this time with a product that bypasses switches of local phone companies such as Pacific Bell.

UUNet and its parent company WorldCom today announced the national rollout of higher-speed Net access over traditional phone lines. As reported by CNET last week, the product--dubbed "IDSL"--is a hybrid of ISDN and xDSL.

The IDSL service, called "Preferred Access 128," will be supported in 117 U.S. cities. It will offer faster, affordable Net access for businesses and reduce the level of congestion on traditional switched phone networks with a direct connection to the Net.

Deployment has begun in Northern California and will be offered throughout the state during the next three months. By the end of the third quarter, 92 more cities will launch the IDSL service nationwide.

IDSL is priced at $750 per month with a one-year commitment. The service includes DNS registration, 20 email accounts, and five newsreaders. Local access will range from $150 to $255 per month depending on location.

The service is jointly developed with computer networking company Ascend Communications. It will leverage the assets of WorldCom's growing telecommunications empire: UUNet, with its Internet backbone, and MFS Communications, which has a local phone network.

UUNet and WorldCom are likely to use the product as ammo in the ongoing debate about how to reduce Net congestion. The combination technology is a potent threat to regional Bell operating companies such as Pacific Bell, which is offering competiting services.

The Baby Bells want Internet service providers to help pay the cost of upgrading their networks, which they say are being overtaxed by Net use. ISPs are balking, however, and the Federal Communications Commission has the final say over whether to impose the so-called Net access fees. FCC chairman Reed Hundt opposes such fees.