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NorthPoint to broaden DSL service

The telco will expand its digital subscriber line services to 25 cities next year.

    NorthPoint Communications will expand its digital subscriber line services to 25 cities next year, the company will announce today.

    NorthPoint, a competitive local exchange carrier (CLEC), will offer DSL in 15 new markets by the third quarter of 1999.

    "In the second half of 1999, we will be able to provide DSL service to more business customers than all the Baby Bells combined," NorthPoint chief executive Michael Malaga said in a drafted statement.

    NorthPoint currently sells its DSL service, which allows high-speed Net access over copper phone lines, to network service providers and ISPs in seven markets. The company will reach ten metropolitan areas by the end of the month.

    Next year it plans to roll out DSL in Atlanta; Austin, Texas; Baltimore; Cleveland; Denver; Miami; Tampa; Minneapolis; Philadelphia; Pittsburgh; Phoenix; Portland; Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina; Seattle; and St. Louis.

    Many telecommunications companies, including the local telephone giants, are betting on DSL to extend the life of their expensive, but aging, copper wire networks. In an attempt to ward off competition and falling prices in the voice market, the Baby Bells hope to provide fast Internet access and high-end data services such as Internet Protocol-based telephony, video-conferencing, and video-on-demand via DSL technology.

    The technology helps to pit telcos, including CLECs such as NorthPoint, against cable operators for dominance in the new digital age. CLECs were originally intended to bring competition to the local phone markets as part of the 1996 Telecommunications Act passed by Congress.

    But some critics argue that DSL technology is too expensive for consumers, which is why telcos have targeted the service at businesses. And the Baby Bells have been criticized for being slow to roll out the service, although the same can be said for cable modem service in many regions.

    NorthPoint already offers DSL service in the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, Boston, New York, Chicago, San Diego, and Washington D.C., and will make the service available in Dallas, Detroit, and Houston by year's end.

    The company's chief competitors include Covad Communications, Rhythms, Dakota Services, and MCI WorldCom, which recently announced it will offer DSL service nationwide by the end of the year.