RealTime IT News

AOL Building Broadband Portal

America Online Inc. is continuing to construct one of the largest broadband initiatives for high-speed Internet access on the Web.

Designed for consumers with Digital Subscriber Line Internet access, the new broadband portal unveiled Monday is tentatively being developed under the brand name AOL Plus.

The enriched AOL Plus content will launch late this summer when the company releases access to site as part of its DSL service bundle. Analysts anticipate that the DSL upgrade will cost AOL members approximately $20 more than standard modem-based connection fees.

Earlier this year AOL formed long-term strategic alliances with SBC Communications and Bell Atlantic to provide high-speed DSL connectivity to AOL members. The combined deals mean that AOL could offer their broadband services to about 15.8 million homes in 21 states by the end of this year.

"With our growing membership base, we are in the best position to transform broadband technologies to mass market realities," said Bob Pittman, AOL's president and chief operating officer.

Right now broadband content is limited primarily to streaming audio applications due to bandwidth constraints. AOL Plus will offer streaming media features, along with photos, graphics and animation that will greatly enhance current online shopping experiences.

AOL plans to aggressively promote their DSL services and enriched Web content. At the same time, the company knows firsthand the trials and tribulations that coincide with success on the Internet.

Initially, AOL's size may put the company at a disadvantage in trying to create cutting-edge content offerings suitable for the mass market.

In order to combat growing pains like those AOL experienced with their traditional connectivity services late last year, the company completed several key acquisitions earlier this month.

AOL acquired Spinner Networks, Inc. and Nullsoft, Inc. to extend their ability to deliver next-generation music broadcasts. The $400 million broadband initiative enables AOL to create unequaled music functions and broadcasting events customized for their AOL.com, CompuServe and Netcenter Web sites.

"Spinner and Nullsoft's teams will help us develop new tools to make our partners' music and other audio offerings even more compelling and build the mass market audience," said Ted Leonsis, president of AOL interactive properties.

Leonsis added the "acquisitions establish our leadership in Internet music, and we expect to extend this leadership through additional partnerships in the future. As faster speeds through broadband emerge, high-quality music will become an increasingly attractive application that will help drive the further growth of broadband."