High-Speed Net Access Arrives

Pacific Bell's new high-speed Internet service will probably be available in Los Angeles and surrounding areas in July or August, but business customers won't have to wait that long.

Beginning today, NorthPoint Communications Inc. of Irvine will make similar high-speed network access available in the San Fernando Valley and in Los Angeles, Orange and San Bernardino counties through five Internet service providers.

The Internet companies include Epoch Internet and Verio Southern California (both based in Irvine), Concentric Network of San Francisco, and Flashcom and Internet Express (both based in Los Angeles). They will offer the service to small and medium-size businesses.

In March, NorthPoint began offering high-speed access to Internet service providers in the Bay Area and Silicon Valley.

The company sells variations of digital subscriber line, or DSL, services, which can provide "always-on" Internet access over standard copper lines at speeds up to 50 times that available through most dial-up 28.8-kilobit-per-second modems. Users can surf the Internet and talk or send faxes on the same phone line at the same time.

Epoch said it will offer business customers a variety of DSL services and speeds ranging from 144kbps to 1.5 megabits per second, with prices starting at $35 per month per user, plus monthly carrier fees of $99 or more.

In addition, Santa Clara-based Covad Communications Co. said it will expand its DSL service into the Los Angeles market by the fall. The company began offering the high-speed access lines in the Bay Area late last year.

According to Dhruv Khanna, general counsel at Covad, the new rivals will be able to buy access to PacBell's lines and sell the DSL service under their own names, much as long-distance resellers buy network space from MCI or AT&T; and sell it under other brands.

"This should accelerate the opening up of the DSL market, because they cannot refuse competitors access to the services that they are selling themselves," Khanna said.

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