It’s partnership time for Internet access, with both Microsoft Corp. and American Online Inc. cutting deals to broaden Net access options.
Microsoft has signed with Qwest Communications International Inc. to use Qwest’s infrastructure for Internet access by MSN customers. And AOL Time Warner Inc. will offer access to its high-speed Web services to Juno Online Services Inc. customers.
Opening access to the former Time Warner cable lines was one condition required for regulatory approval of the US$106.2 billion merger between America Online and Time Warner early in 2001. The merged company was required to sign contracts permitting competing Internet service providers to use its pipeline.
The former Time Warner Cable signed a similar pact with EarthLink Inc. late in 2000. Juno expects to begin offering services over AOL Time Warner’s cable in the second half of 2001, according to Juno.
Juno has a similar deal with Comcast to offer cable access certain regions of the country. That was its first trial for offering Internet service from a nonaffiliated company.
Qwest subscribers switch to MSN
In the Qwest-MSN deal, Qwest will market MSN Internet access in its 14-state local area, and Microsoft will buy Qwest services, Microsoft representatives say. Beginning in mid-2001, the existing 500,000 subscribers to Qwest’s Internet service Qwest.net will get MSN, according to Microsoft.
Qwest will promote its services on Microsoft’s large network of sites, including news Web site MSNBC.com, Web portal MSN.com, and small-business portal bCentral.com. Microsoft’s MSN unit will purchase connectivity as well as billing and collection services from Qwest, Microsoft says.
Qwest.net offers conventional dial-up Internet access as well as high-speed DSL access. Outside its local service area, Qwest will market MSN Internet Access alone or in combination with Qwest products, Microsoft says. The deal runs for five years.
Juno and AOL Time Warner have been negotiating a contract since last summer, the companies say. Their deal lets both market the service.
(Joris Evers of the IDG News Service contributed to this report).