Microsoft, Qwest in Broadband Alliance

In a five-year strategic alliance with Qwest Communications International
Inc., Microsoft Corp. said on Thursday it would offer its MSN Internet
access and services over the high-speed Internet network provided by the
communications giant.


For the past two years, companies have either looked within or pitched
competitors with plans to expand their high-speed access and services. Most
would-be contenders in the Internet space realize that until high-speed
connectivity is available to consumers advertisers and businesses will stay
offline.


In a prepared statement, Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft, said “This
agreement will be instrumental in delivering broadband to mainstream
consumers.


The promise of broadband access to every home has been much romanced, but
few homes have access. We’re gratified that Qwest sees benefit in
advertising its services on MSN.”


As a part of the agreement, Qwest will be charged with marketing MSN
Internet Access and its services to consumers. In turn, MSN will commit to
buying high-speed, digital subscriber lines (DSL), dial ports and billing
and collection services from Qwest.


Ballmer declined to provide the rates the two companies would charge to
hook up customers to its DSL services, but said consumers could expect an
“aggressive offer.”


Qwest, which operates a national fiber optic telecommunications network and
provides local telephone service in 14 states, will also promote its
services on MSN Internet sites and other Microsoft properties, including
MSNBC and online magazine Slate, MSN Music, Zone.com and the Microsoft
bCentral small business portal.


Denver-based Qwest said that beginning this summer, 500,000 existing
Qwest.net subscribers and new customers in its local service area would
receive the MSN Internet Access service.


In early morning going, shares in Microsoft were trading
at $70.77, up $1.08 from yesterday’s close at $69.69.


Qwest was trading at $38.76, down 14 cents from yesterday’s
close at $38.90.

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