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BellSouth, Dell Strike Alliance With Computer/Access Deal

BellSouth (NYSE: BLS) has agreed to a joint venture with Dell Computer Corp. (Nasdaq: DELL) to market broadband-enabled computer systems using the Atlanta-based Internet provider's FastAccess DSL service.

The offer will be extended to residential customers throughout BellSouth's coverage region, and will include a pre-installed DSL modem and pre-loaded software in the Dell PCs.

Dell and BellSouth will both market the offer, which will become available sometime in the second quarter of this year. Conditions of the offer, such as pricing and the length of time customers are expected to subscribe to FastAccess will be announced in the second quarter, as well.

The alliance also allows Dell to serve as a provider of computer systems and servers for BellSouth's corporate use.

David Blumenthal, spokesman for BellSouth, said the partnership will be offered to customers in Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, Kentucky, Tennessee and Louisiana. The time frame for how long this offer will be available has yet to be solidified.

"This allows us to offer our customers a simple, easy way to enjoy Broadband," Blumenthal said. "By combining our FastAccess Internet service with Dell's computer systems, it allows our customers to have a plug-and-play solution."

Ralph delaVega, president of broadband services for BellSouth, was out of town and unavailable for comment on the joint venture, but in a statement he said, "There are natural synergies between the computer system and DSL industries. BellSouth and Dell are taking advantage of a unique opportunity to join our respective technologies to make the customer's broadband experience simpler and more convenient."

In January, AT&T Broadband forged a similar relationship with Gateway Country, but that alliance was different in that it was extended to customers who weren't already AT&T Broadband subscribers. The offer between BellSouth and Dell is available to existing BellSouth subscribers, as well as to any new customers that might sign on as a result of a new Dell computer purchase.