RealTime IT News

Companies Expand Broadband Alliance

Microsoft Corp. has expanded its broadband service alliance with NorthPoint Communications.

Under the new agreement announced Thursday, NorthPoint (NPNT) will serve as the preferred Digital Subscriber Line provider for Microsoft's MSN Internet Access offering in Tandy Corp.'s RadioShack stores located within NorthPoint's network footprint.

Michael Malaga, NorthPoint chairman and chief executive officer, said the deal was a logical extension of NorthPoint's existing relationships with Microsoft and RadioShack.

"We expect to accelerate consumer adoption of DSL by enabling millions of Americans to walk into their local RadioShack retail store starting this year, sample MSN Internet Access powered by NorthPoint DSL, and learn about its many benefits from a knowledgeable sales staff," Malaga said.

Jeff Sanderson, MSN general manager, said the two companies have partnered effectively in the past and that the alliance would address the rapidly growing demand for broadband services.

"Microsoft's 'store within a store' in RadioShack retail locations nationwide will be convenient to millions of Americans and feature a complete consumer broadband service offering enabling individuals to realize the Internet's full, multi-media potential," Sanderson said.

Leonard Roberts, Tandy (TAN) chairman, president and chief executive officer, said their broadband service bundle makes RadioShack's home connectivity strategy a high-speed force to reckon with.

"With one visit to their convenient neighborhood RadioShack store, millions of American consumers will soon have an unprecedented opportunity to participate in the broadband revolution that is sweeping across the nation," Roberts said.

NorthPoint DSL will be distributed through other Microsoft (MSFT) sales channels and the two companies plan to develop live entertainment vents and interactive gaming content designed for broadband consumers.

Malaga said NorthPoint would work with Microsoft to equip consumers with broadband connectivity and offer enriched content.

"Content providers are increasingly developing content designed for the growing number of broadband-enabled consumers," Malaga said. "NorthPoint and Microsoft are creating a new network architecture to help content providers better reach the DSL subscribers we will serve."

NorthPoint's new agreement with Microsoft augments their existing alliance with RadioShack that was forged in April 1999. Under the original agreement, RadioShack crowned NorthPoint as its preferred DSL provider.

NorthPoint DSL services are scheduled for deployment to more than half of the RadioShack stores nationwide before the end of this year. The DSL provider currently operates a nationwide broadband network that serves 33 metropolitan markets. NorthPoint anticipates that their footprint will be expanded to pass approximately half of all US homes and businesses by the end of this year.

Malaga said that the Federal Communication Commission's line-sharing ruling made in November 1999 has effectively accelerated DSL service deployment and made copper-wire access a viable choice for broadband consumers.

"The FCC's line-sharing order unleashes broadband competition in the consumer market and will result in innovation and choice for American households," Malaga said. "The FCC has set aggressive guidelines for the implementation of line sharing this year and Nort