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Ford Employees Drive Away With Great DSL Deal

Ford Motor Co. is offering employees $25-a-month digital subscriber line service as an expanded option to its Model E employee program, it was announced Wednesday.

Asynchronous DSL (ADSL) service, for employees who pay an upfront fee of $75 per quarter, is now available for the 178,000 employees currently taking advantage of the car company's $5-a-month offering of a People PC Inc., computer, color printer and dial-up Internet access through UUNet.

To get the best deal for its employees, Ford tapped Covad Communications Group, Big Net Inc., and Efficient Networks Inc. The three-year contract calls for the three companies to supply connectivity, expertise and equipment for Model E participants.

Detroit-based Internet service provider Big Net is providing the customer support and billing support for the DSL program.

Its Big Net's long-standing relationship with Ford that brought the whole deal together, according to Duane Rao, Big Net chief executive officer. His company, a subsidiary of Big Net Holdings Inc., a privately-held business out of Delaware, has done business with Ford for years, he said.

"Not only is it one of the biggest connectivity contracts in the U.S., we didn't have to go to the West or East Coast to sign the contract," Rao said. "The DSL product will enable Model E members to effectively use advanced technology to create new opportunities. Just as important, employees will be much more productive with their Internet time."

Rao said that between 6,000-10,000 Ford employees sign up for the Model E dialup program every week. As these employees sign up, they become eligible for the DSL upgrade.

Robert Knowling, Covad chairman, president and chief executive officer, said Ford employees can now take advantage of speedy Internet access and what it has to offer.

"We applaud Ford for its far-sightedness in bringing its entire work force access to e-business technology and skills," Knowling said. "Now, with DSL, employees based in the United States can really enjoy the high-speed, always-on benefits of the Internet. Covad, with the nation's largest national DSL network, can scale to meet the provisioning needs of eligible Ford employees based in the United States so they can experience the Internet as it should be."

Efficient Networks provides the equipment, called customer premise equipment, for Ford subscribers, which includes the ADSL modem, broadband client software package and splitter. Efficient is one of the main CPE providers for Covad, making it a shoe-in for the Ford deal.

Mark Floyd, Efficient president and chief executive officer, said his company will benefit from the increased business.

"We were chosen by Big Net to provide the DSL equipment because of our broad product range," Floyd said. "This opportunity really boosts Efficient's national presence."