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US West to speed telecommute

The telecommunications carrier will announce an initiative to offer high-speed Internet access to telecommuters.

Telecommunications carrier US West will announce on Monday an initiative to offer high-speed Internet access to telecommuters.

It comes just days after @Work, a division of @Home, struck a deal with giants in the cable-television industry to offer @Work Remote, extending local area networking to telecommuters. (See related story)

Both represent another signal that competition is heating up between the telcos and @Home to provide high-speed access, and telecommuters are a prime target. Despite its growth potential, the commercial high-speed data market still is in its infancy, facing both technological and marketing hurdles.

Both companies cited estimates that the number of telecommuters is expected to increase to more than 14 million nationwide during the next four years. One reason: the average worker spends 41 minutes per day commuting to and from work, according to the National Transportation Safety Board, so telecommuting can give workers more time to be productive.

As with @Home, US West will roll out its "Telework and Mobility Solutions Initiative" on a wide scale in the first part of next year.

The initiative will include US West's newly launched DSL (digital subscriber line) service, as well as ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network). The plan aims to provide a customized package of services and technologies that includes training, hardware and software, service, and support.

As previously reported, US West rolled out DSL in Phoenix last week, and plans to expand it to 12 cities in the western United States, including Denver and Seattle, by the middle of next year. This month, Pacific Bell plans to launch a DSL market trial in Silicon Valley, and Pac Bell, Bell Atlantic, and Bell South all plan commercial rollouts of DSL next year.

On the cable front, not only @Home, but also Time Warner and US West are rolling out their high-speed Net access via cable modems. For example, Time Warner's Road Runner service is now being expanded to Oahu, Hawaii.