Microsoft and Qwest Communications Thursday unveiled an Internet marketing pact that lends a Microsoft endorsement to Qwest's digital subscriber line service. The arrangement also provides Microsoft with a new DSL distributor at a time when support for the high-speed connectivity technology is faltering. Qwest, which operates a national fibre-optic network and provides local phone service in 14 states, will exclusively market Microsoft's MSN Internet access service to its DSL subscribers, starting with 500,000 customers this summer. Microsoft will buy broadband capacity and other services and equipment from Qwest, in which it's an investor.
Microsoft's previous DSL provider, NorthPoint Communications, recently shut down its high-speed service and sold its technology assets to AT&T. That left NorthPoint's ISPs in the lurch, including Microsoft, which had to offer MSN subscribers a costly satellite connection instead. Other DSL companies including Covad Communications and Rhythms NetConnections also are in financial straights.
Such upheaval in the DSL market has made it imperative that Microsoft partner with a stable DSL provider. Says Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, "This agreement will be instrumental in delivering broadband to mainstream consumers."