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Pac Bell Internet steamrolls ahead

Pacific Bell's Internet service plans to roll out Net access to 11 new California markets by year's end.

Pacific Bell Internet has signed up 100,000 subscribers during the past year and is planning to roll out Net access to 11 new California markets by year's end, executives said today.

Within the next eight weeks, PBI also will announce plans to integrate its Internet services with a parallel division at SBC Communications, which bought Pac Bell earlier this year. Details of who will run the combined operation still are being determined.

"We are in the midst of a rather complex and large-scale integration," Mark Fisher, vice president of marketing at PBI, said today.

Pac Bell's foray into the Net access market is an example of how Baby Bells are trying to bring consumers one-stop shopping in telecommunications services, a process that is being accelerated under deregulation mandated by last year's federal telecommunications reform. Several of the Baby Bells offer branded Net access.

New markets in California that PBI will enter are Antioch, Santa Clarita, Yorba Linda, Oceanside, Carlsbad, Encinitas, Del Mar, Placerville, Napa, Vallejo, and Tracy. These suburban areas will help Pac Bell get to five percent more of California's residents. The service currently reaches 80 percent of the households and small businesses in the state.

PBI will also double its line capacity for dial-up access this year and install more high-performance switches and routers in its network to handle increasing traffic.

Although its subscriber numbers are high for a local market, PBI, like other Internet service providers, has suffered some temporary outages. In January, an outage disrupted email service for 48 hours, affecting many of its customers.

But PBI customers can connect three times more reliably than the industry average--97 percent get access on their first try, according to results from a study by Inverse Network Technology, a Santa Clara company that measures the overall performance of major ISPs.

"People go online more often than not because they want to send or receive email, and this is at the heart of what we do well at Pacific Bell," Fisher said.

Pac Bell also announced today that it will allow subscribers to use personal home pages and launch nationwide roaming for subscribers who want Net access when they travel outside of California.

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