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Pacific Northwest gets DSL

Net service provider Northwest Link demonstrates high-speed streaming technology to Seattle TV stations to drum up DSL business in the region.

The Pacific Northwest, a Mecca of high-tech giants, is getting a taste of DSL (digital subscriber line) technology.

In this case, Internet service provider Northwest Link and RealNetworks yesterday demonstrated high-speed media streaming to local television news stations in Seattle. Telecommunications carriers such as US West and GTE aren't far behind.

The partnering companies sent local news clips over copper phone lines at 300 kbps per second in an effort to win support for the technology. While DSL has been touted to reach dizzying speeds of more than 1 MB per second, this presentation reached only about one-third of that due to insufficient hardware on the receiving end's laptop, according to Northwest Link marketing director John Beezer.

"We [were] trying to speak their language," said Beezer, in reference to the television stations. "And when we say you can send TV over the phone, they get it. If we say we've got 30 clients on a network running over a standard phone line, they scratch their heads."

DSL technology enables high-speed network access over traditional copper telephone lines at a lower cost than T1 lines. Users logged on to ISPs that provide this service must buy DSL modems, which cost roughly $1,200.

While the ISP became the first to offer DSL technology in the Pacific Northwest, the big players are starting their own round of testing and offerings. For instance, GTE recently began limited trials in the region, while US West plans to begin tests running at 768 kbps, according to Beezer.

Northwest Link first rolled out DSL access in January, but to a quieter-than-expected response. Beezer blames this on consumer disbelief and telecommunications giant US West, which he says distracted attention away from Northwest Link. He points to the groundbreaking partnership between technology giants Microsoft, Intel, and Compaq as a factor that lent credibility to the service. Currently, the ISP offers DSL access at $400 per month and leases DSL modems for $60 per month.