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PointCast pushes ahead with Net venture

PointCast is making strides to create a joint venture to offer high-speed Net access over copper telephone wires.

PointCast is pushing ahead with plans to create a joint venture with phone companies to offer high-speed Net access over copper telephone wires.

Among the new developments, PointCast is approaching advertising agencies to develop branding for the venture, sources said.

Additionally, PointCast has come up with a temporary name for the project, dubbed Newnet. Last week, it registered domain names Projectnewnet.com, Projectnewnet.net, Project-Newnet.com, and Project-Newnet.net. At the same time, the "push" pioneer is on a hiring spree, looking for new sales and ad executives, as well as an e-commerce manager.

If a new joint venture or service does emerge, however, it may have to find itself a new name. The name "Newnet" is trademarked by a Connecticut company called ADC Communications, which does business online under the Newnet.com domain name.

"That's our patent and trademark, and we are not willing to give up the domain name," said Niloofar Yakani, the company's official contact on domain name matters. "We're not willing to sell it or trade it or anything."

Possible deal with a Baby Bell
As reported, PointCast has been in talks with BellSouth and other telcos about taking an investment in the company. The venture would combine PointCast's content and push technology with the Bell's DSL service, creating a new Net access service to compete with @Home and others.

The deal was originally expected to be completed as early as January, but the shape of the agreement appears to still be evolving.

The telco industry's DSL plans are in flux, due to pending regulatory questions and evolving deals with other Internet companies. This may be making it more difficult for the Newnet parties to reach any type of agreement.

Pointcast declined to comment on the joint venture or on the domain name registration.

"We said last July [after pulling the IPO] that we were looking for strategic partners and that is continuing," Wendy McCarthy, a PointCast spokeswoman.

PointCast, in the meantime, posted 28 job openings on its Web site. Nearly 70 percent of the jobs are for new positions, particularly in sales and advertising.

"We haven't had this level of hiring since the first half of 1998. We're doing this to meet our organizational needs," said McCarthy. The company employs 230 people.

One PointCast investor said although he would have preferred the company file for a public offering, he is satisfied with the efforts by PointCast's management. The company pulled its IPO plans last summer, as the company wanted to explore other options with potential strategic partners.

"As the company addresses capital requirements, management has been very aggressive in pursing those issues," said the investor. "I have no problem with where management is today."

While PointCast tries to seal a deal with the telcos, other push companies like Marimba have filed to go public.

News that PointCast was shopping for an advertising agency first was reported by Adweek.

News.com's Wylie Wong contributed to this report.