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Williams to expand high-speed network into 50 cities

As competition increases in the networking business, bandwidth provider Williams Communications expands its U.S. high-speed network and acquires network capacity in Canada and Europe.

Williams Communications plans to expand its U.S. high-speed network to include metropolitan areas in the top 50 markets and has also acquired network capacity in Canada and Europe, the company announced today.

Williams, a wholesale provider of bandwidth to other communications carriers, expects to spend $421 million over three years in order to link its proposed 33,000-mile fiber-optic "backbone" network directly to business customers in the nation's largest cities.

Williams is hoping to ride a wave of interest in providing high-speed connections as close to urban business areas and residential neighborhoods as possible. Those Internet "on ramps," so to speak, can then fill the large amount of backbone long-distance network capacity currently being built and expanded by several communications carriers.

Williams expects to spend $149 million this year to begin construction in all 50 cities by the end of the year. The company already has local access agreements with Metromedia Fiber Network and Winstar, but hopes to round out its portfolio of services

"It's really just another component of the overall strategy," said Jeff Storey, vice president of local access services for Williams Communications.

Williams also signed a $42 million deal to lease fiber from Teleglobe in Canada and Europe, giving Williams a European presence for the first time. Previously, Teleglobe announced it would lease capacity from Williams in a $200 million deal. Williams also has an international alliance with Telmex.

Others are already at work on their metropolitan network strategies.

Qwest Communications International and Level 3 Communications have begun building local fiber-optic networks, which provide an additional revenue source as competition increases and profits fall in the backbone business. Both companies also have a head start in the international arena, building networks in Europe.

Williams recently completed 26,000 miles of its domestic long-haul network.