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UUNet rolls out 56-kbps access

The WorldCom subsidiary is the latest in a string of Internet service providers to offer higher-speed access.

UUNet Technologies today became the latest in a string of Internet service providers to offer 56-kbps access.

The company, which is a subsidiary of telecommunications behemoth WorldCom, announced that the rollout will take place in 415 points of presence (POPs) across the United States using Rockwell and Lucent's k56flex modem technology. The ISP plans to extend its higher-speed access to an additional 85 POPs by the end of this year.

UUNet is currently one of the world's largest backbone providers for businesses and Internet access resellers such as the Microsoft Network. The announcement comes on the heels of several other providers introducing or expanding 56-kbps access, such as BellSouth and America Online.

Today's announcement also underscores the growing demand among both users and providers for an industry standard in 56-kbps modem technology. Other Internet service providers such as AT&T WorldNet are featuring 3Com's x2 modem technology in their access upgrades, while UUNet resellers such as MSN and EarthLink use K56flex. Currently, the two technologies are incompatible.

Explaining UUNet's decision to feature k56flex technology, spokesman Ralph Montfort said, "The chip set available from k56flex seemed to work best with our backbone, which is Ascend. It made the most sense with the k56flex."

According to company officials, UUNet had "flipped the switch" for 56-kbps access November 1, but hedged its official announcement to prevent any overshadowing of WorldCom's acquisition of MCI. The modem speed upgrade gives the company an opportunity to satisfy the needs of its customer pool, composed primarily of businesses and resellers such as AOL, EarthLink, and GTE.

UUNet's opening of access channels differs from that of the likes of AOL and MSN. According to analyst Joe Bartlett of the Boston-based Yankee Group, UUNet prefers to open up its entire market at once, instead of conducting field tests and gradually offering access to various geographical locations.

"They like to market things across the customer base. In this announcement they made it available to all their POPs and will deploy to additional ones [in the future]," said Bartlett.