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U S WEST, CLEC Consortium Sign Line-Sharing Deal

A consortium of 13 leading competitive local exchange carriers and U S WEST Tuesday agreed to share phone lines for simultaneous voice and data traffic on a region-wide basis.

The deal marks a broadband pro-competitive milestone as it is the first multi-company region-wide agreement of its kind in the U.S.

The agreement is designed to accelerate the deployment and broaden the availability of high-speed digital subscriber line services to millions more consumers in U S WEST's (USW) 14-state territory.

The companies participating in the agreement with US WEST include Arrival Communications, @Link Networks, Inc., BridgeBand Communications, Inc., Contact Communications, Covad Communications Co., CDS Networks, Inc., Jato Communications Corp., Montana Wireless, Inc., MULTIBAND Communications, Inc., New Edge Networks, NorthPoint Communications, Inc., Rhythms, Inc. (RTHM) , and Western Telephone Integrated Communications, Inc.

John Kelley, U S WEST president of wholesale markets, said the agreement underscores its willingness to go the extra mile in opening up our network to competitors.

"The deal comes at a time when demand for high-speed Internet access has never been greater," Kelley said. "This ground-breaking agreement not only demonstrates our commitment and ability to work effectively with a broad range of customers and competitors, it will also help more companies offer services to more consumers and businesses throughout our region."

The agreement outlines the terms and conditions for competitors' use of the high-frequency portion of the local phone line, allowing voice and data to be transmitted simultaneously over the same line. The predetermined deployment schedule is designed to facilitate line-sharing in approximately 350 U S WEST central offices by the end of July.

Under the agreement, consortium members can choose one of two payment options for interim monthly line-sharing rates. Members may select an interim rate of $5.40 per month per shared line, or a rate of $0 per month per shared line until as early as January 1, 2001, at which time the interim monthly rate will change to $8.25.

Under either payment scheduled, consortium members subscriber to the interim price plans are subject to "true up" payment. Once permanent prices are established in each state, the permanent price will be applied retroactively back to April 24, 2000 for the true up.

Currently, Minnesota is the only state in U S WEST's service area that has established an interim line-sharing rate of $6.05 a month. Tuesday's agreement establishes interim rates in U S WEST's other 13 states, pending agreements between U S WEST and CLECs on permanent prices or further action by regulatory commissions in each state.

U S WEST and the consortium members have agreed to continue negotiating to reach permanent prices for line-sharing. If a permanent price can't be negotiated, the companies have agreed to ask each state commission to establish permanent rates.

Line-sharing involves separating the frequencies of transmissions over the copper wires, local loop that connects to customers' homes and businesses. Line-sharing enables voice and data traffic to be transmitted simultaneously over the same wire.

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