In her recent op-ed (My View, Sept. 4), Sue Ashdown appears intent on casting US WEST in the role of bogeyman. But the facts clearly show that if a bogeyman is what she's after, she'll just have to look somewhere else.
Independent Internet Service Providers (ISPs), like the one Ashdown operates, have helped pioneer an industry that in many ways is redefining the Information Age. But it's also an industry characterized by constant change, and despite Ashdown's concerns about more competition, the technology and services offered by US WEST can help ISPs prosper amidst that change.US WEST is the recognized leader in rapid deployment of digital subscriber line services that super-charge the Internet. Last spring we launched this new service along the Wasatch Front, called US WEST MegaBit Services. Utah was one of the first states selected by US WEST for deployment, which clearly benefits customers in our state.
In addition to offering this revolutionary new service to our customers, MegaBit can be a tremendous boon to independent ISPs. ISPs can purchase a product called MegaCentral that allows them to offer high-speed Internet access to their own customers. That's why we included ISPs as we made plans for rollout of the new service. We met personally with representatives of many ISPs and explained to them in detail how the product would work and where it would be deployed. We also discussed ways in which they could benefit and take part.
MegaBit is a cutting-edge technology, and US WEST is the first regional Bell company to offer the service broadly to both consumers and businesses. Unfortunately, forecasting demand for a product that's never been on the market before is a real challenge, and we've seen a shortage of facilities in some areas where MegaBit is offered. We're working to get that problem resolved quickly.
Ashdown has pointed to areas where we might improve the way we provide our high-speed data service, and we've acted upon many of the things that she and other independent ISPs have suggested.
US WEST has a strong commitment to working with independent ISPs, and we've created a separate division within the company focused specifically on meeting their needs. The division offers dedicated sales, service and market management teams that function as advocates within US WEST for ISPs. We have lots of independent ISPs as customers and it's an important part of our business to help those customers succeed.
In addition to MegaBit Services, US WEST also offers an Internet service called US WEST.net. This service puts US WEST in the position of being both a provider of services to ISPs and a competitor. But that sort of dual relationship is fairly common in the high-tech industry, or any industry for that matter, and most companies benefit from it, despite the element of competition. That's certainly been our experience with the vast majority of ISPs we have as clients. The fact that some might object to the added competition isn't reason, as Ashdown suggests, to keep MegaBit from Utahns.
Ashdown's complaints are misplaced, especially given the fact that other companies offering high-speed Internet access, such as cable companies, are not going to the extremes US WEST is going to in order to give customers choice. Unlike US WEST, which works to accommodate all ISPs, these companies are free to shut out providers they don't want to work with.
In parts of the country where cable companies are offering Internet service, consumers subscribing to that service typically have only one Internet provider to choose from, the one the cable company chooses. With US WEST's offering, customers get to choose from a variety of ISPs for their high-speed Internet connection. That's good news for customers because they're given more choices, and it's equally good news for ISPs.
When you consider all we offer independent ISPs, US WEST is clearly much more friend than foe.