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Companies Developing Speedy Modem

January 20, 1998

NEW YORK (AP) _ Three giants of the computer industry reportedly have joined with most of the nation’s regional phone companies in an attempt to offer Internet access in the home almost 30 times faster than current speeds by next Christmas.

To boost net speeds, Microsoft Corp., Compaq Computer and Intel Corp. hope to design a new type of modem that will connect to ordinary phone lines and work with today’s computers, obviating the need for specialized lines known as ISDN, Integrated Services Digital Network, The New York Times reported today.

The new service would not interfere with normal voice conversations over the same phone line, the Times said.

``This could be a significant jump-start to the interactive segment,″ Adam Schoenfeld, vice president of the New York consulting group Jupiter Communications, told The Associated Press. ``The real limiting problem for interactive consumer services has been poor bandwidth.″

Further details will be released at a Washington news conference next week, the Times said.

The new standard is an early shot in the battle for consumer Internet access, which pits regional phone companies and cable companies against one another. By using existing phone lines and a new modem, the new standard, known as asymmetrical digital subscriber line, or ADSL, will be an alternative to more expensive options.

ADSL allows data speeds of up to 1.5 million bits per second, fast enough for pictures on the Web to pop up almost instantly. A bit is the smallest unit of digital information computers can use.

Current speeds are limited to about 52,000 bits per second, meaning an average photograph takes several seconds to appear. With ADSL, broadcast-quality video over the Internet could become a reality.

Anything faster now requires ISDN or cable modems, which use coaxial cable and connect through cable TV companies. Fewer than 100,000 people have signed up for the cable modems.

ADSL technology has been under development for years, but competing standards have hindered its acceptance. U S West has deployed it in limited areas such as Phoenix. That company’s installation fee is $200 and the service costs about $40 a month. Today’s fastest consumer modems cost about $150 and a net connection costs about $20 a month.

Only Bell Atlantic Corp., stretching from Maine to Virginia, has been hesitant about joining the computer titans and their telephone allies, which include GTE Corp., Ameritech, U S West, BellSouth and SBC Communications.

Microsoft makes the operating system that runs more than 80 percent of the nation’s personal computers. Compaq is the largest computer manufacturer. Intel is the largest manufacturer of computer chips, the brains of the boxes that run Microsoft’s product.

On Monday, Intel launched a short-term solution to sluggish Web traffic with ``Quick Web″ a technology that stores frequently accessed Web pages at the customer’s Internet service provider. Rather than connecting to a server across the country, the user would get the Web page from their local provider, speeding up the process.

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