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MCI WorldCom to offer DSL service

MCI WorldCom announces it will roll out high-speed digital subscriber line Internet access nationwide by the end of 1998.

LAS VEGAS--MCI WorldCom announced today that it will roll out high-speed digital subscriber line (DSL) Internet access nationwide by the end of 1998.

The company will offer the service, already available in parts of California, New York, and Boston for the past 18 months, to businesses and Internet service providers. MCI Worldcom executives said they planned to have 400 points of presence for the service by the end of next month and close to 600 points by March 1999.

MCI Worldcom's DSL service will be available through its UUNet division, one of several Internet backbone and networking services companies acquired by WorldCom over the last two years.

"We think this is the most significant deployment of DSL access to date," vice chairman John Sidgmore said in a keynote speech at the Comdex computer show in Las Vegas. "It combines WorldCom facilities and some from [regional Bell companies] into a single end-to-end national service. We think this changes the model." ((See related story)

Earthlink and America Online will start trial versions of the DSL service for consumers by year's end, executives said. The consumer service will be asymmetrical at download speeds of 384 kbps to 768 kbps, depending on the customer's region and distance from the central office.

MCI WorldCom will also make symmetrical DSL access packages available to corporate subscribers by the end of the first quarter of 1999, officials added. Access speeds will range between 128 kbps to 768 kbps.

MCI initially will offer DSL in such major markets as San Francisco, Los Angeles, Boston, New York, San Diego, Chicago, and Washington. The AOL and Earthlink consumer services are expected to be initially available in those same areas. Sidgmore said MCI will introduce the service overseas too, but offered no timetable.

Prices for the corporate service will start at $500. The consumer services will be priced by the individual ISPs but are expected to be $40 to $60 per month. Business will pay a $500 installation fee, while the one-time set-up fee for consumers will be $150 to $500, MCI said.

Consumers will need an Ethernet card, DSL modem, and a device that can split a standard phone line so it can be used for the high-speed Net access service too, said Ralph Montfort, UUNet's director of product marketing.

MCI's offering will use its own Internet backbone, but in some areas may rely on local Baby Bells for connections between customers' sites and the their local phone office.

DSL, a technology that allows high-speed Internet access over the broadband portion of standard copper phone lines, is competing with cable modems to become the technology of choice for mass market high-speed Net access.

Separately, Compaq Computer announced plans at Comdex this week to offer DSL-ready PCs, and Dell Computer intends to follow suit.