MSN, New Edge Networks Join Forces

Content meets access as the Microsoft Network signs a deal Tuesday with New Edge Networks to provide its Internet services on a broadband platform.

The deal gives America’s fifth-largest ISP another broadband venue in an industry looking to provide platform-agnostic high-speed services, called by many the three broadband pipes of data transmission: digital subscriber line, cable and fixed wireless Internet connectivity.

In hindsight, it was inevitable. Both company’s headquarters are based in that Northwest mecca of the computer industry north of the Silicon Valley: Washington. Employees from both companies probably saw each other often at regional seminars, have maybe even worked at both companies at one time or another.

MSN, an Internet service provider with 3.8 million customers, most of them dialup subscribers, is looking for another broadband option to its heavily marketed satellite (or fixed wireless) service available through Radio Shack. New Edge is a DSL reseller, or data local exchange carrier, as they like to be called, looking for a big-name content provider.

Put them together and you get MSN HighSpeed, which will be available early next year at MSN retail channels throughout the country.

Dan Moffat, New Edge president, chief executive officer and co-founder, said the agreement is further validation of its business model to bring DSL connectivity to small, underserved and rural communities throughout the U.S.

“This alliance brings broadband DSL deeper into the consumer mainstream and helps bridge the digital divide in underserved communities where broadband demand is as strong as it is in the major cities,” Moffat said. “For New Edge Networks, the alliance with MSN validates the value of our national broadband DSL network, coverage and reach into small cities around the country.”

New Edge from its beginning late last year has been on an installation tear, equipping central offices throughout the country with DSL Asymmetrical Muliplexers (DSLAMs) to resell DSL service. It currently has more than 560 DSLAMs in 270 cities throughout the Continental U.S., with 435 of them operational.

The company’s unique business approach leaves it with virtually no competition, as bigger DLECs like Covad Communications and incumbent local exchange carriers like SBC Communications, Inc., fight over a metropolitan market that’s become increasingly saturated with DSL service.

Companies have been hesitant to enter the second-tier cities (with populations under 100,000) because DSL service is only available to residences within 18,000 feet of the central office. Many smaller towns only sport one or two COs. Bringing broadband services to these underserved areas has been dubbed the “digital divide” by the industry and government.

But New Edge’s ventures across the digital divide presented an opportunity MSN couldn’t pass up, according to Ted Kummert, MSN Internet Access vice president.

“We are committed to bringing MSN HighSpeed to every neighborhood in the United States and working closely with New Edge Networks allows us to deliver on that promise,” Kummert said. “Now we will be able to offer an easy and affordable way for even more consumers to take advantage of the best of the Web by optimizing their connection with MSN HighSpeed.”

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