US WEST Targets Offline Consumers

US WEST is looking to tap into the remaining 60 percent of American homes that do not have access to the Internet.

The local telephone company wants to make “Web-tone,” the data equivalent of dial tone, for the majority of the U.S. homes that do not currently have access to online services.

Over the next few months, consumers subscribing to US West Internet services may be able to use one message box to check all their e-mail, voice-mail and faxes, by phone or computer. Additional features permit subscribers to comparison shop for goods and services online, take phone calls from their TV or surf the Internet while watching television.

Sol Trujillo, U S WEST (USW) chairman, president and chief executive officer, said the new service give consumers the tools they need to make the Web a more useful part of their lives.

“This is the Internet made easy,” Trujillo said. “People tell us they like the opportunity and power of going online. But they want it simpler, more convenient and to work seamlessly with other devices like their phone and TV.”

The portal upgrade is part of US WEST’s plans to rollout consumer-friendly services over the next six months.US WEST, currently awaiting regulatory approval for its merger with Qwest Communications International (QWST), also plans to expand their Digital Subscriber Line services, dial-up and wireless Internet access.

By widening their web appeal through alternative access formats, including Internet appliances and television sets, Joe Zell, US WEST !NTERPRISE president, said the company plans to provide consumers with the tools to comparison shop online, access consumer rating information, find local businesses online, and do real-time stock trading.

“This will make life easier for online consumers. Our goal is to help consumers cut through the clutter on the Web, and enjoy the benefits of simplified messaging, online comparison shopping, and soon, online entertainment,” Zell said.

“We’re also working to widen the Web to more people with Internet appliances that make getting online as easy as picking up the phone or watching TV,” he added.

Customers subscribing to US West’s “WebVision” program receive the service over set-top-box, connected trough a wireless keyboard and remote control that switches between Web surfing and TV. For dial-up users, Caller ID appears on your TV screen, and a set-top-box speakerphone lets customer’s place and answer telephone calls through their TV.

U S WEST WebVision programming is currently in Minnesota and will be offered in other cities early next year.

U S WEST has formed an alliance with nationwide retailer CompUSA to offer potential customers a preview of the service and place orders from any CompUSA (CPU) store in the Denver area.

US WEST provides a full range of telecommunications services including wireline, wireless, data networking, directory and information services to more than 25 million customers nationally in 14 western and Midwestern states. The company currently provides Internet services to more than 350,000 customers in the United States.

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