MCI Worldcom is to roll out the first ever national broadband network that enables businesses and consumers alike to access the Internet at very high speeds.
John Sidgmore, heading up MCI Worldcom, stunned the Comdex audience with the announcement that by the end of this year the first part of a US network would be available for Internet access nearly 30 times as fast as a traditional modem connection.
"The deployment of broadband access will dramatically change the Internet experience," he said.
The network will use digital subscriber line, a technology for getting high bandwidths on standard copper telephone cable. This has been around for some time but never before been available beyond a few limited local areas.
This service will provide seamless national service under a single contract, Sidgmore said.
The business service will be called Uulink with two way speeds up to 768Kbps. The consumer service will be sold via partners to include online service provider AOL and US Internet service provider, Earthlink. This will be asynchronous, meaning greater bandwidth downstream, at speeds also up to 768Kbps.
By the end of next month MCI Worldcom's Internet subsidiary Uunet will have 400 points of presence - access points - around the US. By the end of next year it will be 1,000. He did not say if there were any plans to introduce a similar service outside the US.
He did warn one thing - it would not be really cheap. He said the economics of broadband meant fast Internet access had to be paid for.
"Lots of people say bandwidth should be free. Bill Gates wants bandwidth to be free. Well I want software to be free," he said dryly.
Steve Case, chairman of AOL, said in a video call to the presentation that the service provided the opportunity for faster, affordable and available Internet access.
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