Bell Atlantic to build high-speed network for Mountain State

Economic impact of 'Bell Atlantic® WEST VIRGINIA 2001sm' to rival that of interstate highways, governor says.

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Bell Atlantic-West Virginia will build a new $20-million broadband telecommunications network in West Virginia. This network has the potential to improve the lives of all West Virginians by giving them access to a host of new technologies.

Plans for the network, known as Bell Atlantic® WEST VIRGINIA 2001sm , were revealed today at a news conference hosted by Gov. Cecil H. Underwood at the state capitol.

"This mammoth undertaking may have as much impact on the economic vitality of our state as the launching of the interstate highway system three decades ago," Underwood said. "The Bell Atlantic WEST VIRGINIA 2001 network will improve the efficiency of state government and position West Virginians for the new challenges and economic opportunities of the 21st century."

"WEST VIRGINIA 2001 will enhance the quality of education, health care and the economy in the state for many years to come," added Sam Tully, chief technology officer for the state Office of Technology.

"Bell Atlantic will accelerate the deployment of next-generation technology throughout the state," said Dennis Bone, president and CEO of Bell Atlantic-West Virginia. "The potential of this project is enormous for our customers."

Construction on the network already has begun and is expected to be completed by the year 2000.

"Governor Underwood challenged us to use advanced technology to make West Virginia more competitive," Bone added. "WEST VIRGINIA 2001 is our response to that challenge."

A key component of the WEST VIRGINIA 2001 network will be Bell Atlantic's asynchronous transfer mode (ATM) cell relay service. ATM consolidates voice, data and video communications on a single phone line at extremely high speeds, providing greater capacity and flexibility.

Ultimately, the network will provide advanced technology to West Virginia state government agencies, colleges and universities, schools and not-for-profit health-care providers.

"WEST VIRGINIA 2001 will link our state's higher education community electronically, enabling colleges and universities to share resources as never before," Underwood said. "In addition, the network's capabilities will greatly enhance the level of health care for citizens in rural areas. Doctors will have access to such sophisticated technologies as teleradiology and telepathology, which will allow them to serve patients across town or across the state."

Bone said he anticipates the network will help West Virginia attract businesses requiring state-of-the art communications technology. "I'm proud that our company can play such an integral role in making that happen," he said.

Grant program to encourage use of advanced technology

As part of the WEST VIRGINIA 2001 project, Bell Atlantic will establish a grant program through which the company will furnish special equipment to qualifying higher education, health-care and governmental institutions to help them use the network. This equipment, called an "edge device," converts voice, data and video communications into an ATM-based format. The grant program will begin late this year.

The WEST VIRGINIA 2001 network is the latest in a series of Bell Atlantic initiatives using advanced technologies to improve the quality of life in West Virginia. Bell Atlantic-West Virginia was the first company in the nation to boast 100-percent digital switching capability. The company's Office of the Future program leverages Bell Atlantic's advanced technology to attract information-intensive businesses to West Virginia.

Through the Bell Atlantic® WORLD SCHOOLsm program, all kindergarten through twelfth-grade public schools in Bell Atlantic's West Virginia service area are linked to the Internet using high-speed frame relay service. In addition, the company has awarded grants totaling nearly $250,000 to West Virginia educators who are tapping the Internet and other new technologies to enhance learning.

The new Bell Atlantic - formed through the merger of Bell Atlantic and NYNEX - is at the forefront of the new communications, information and entertainment industry. With 40 million telephone access lines and 5.5 million wireless customers worldwide, Bell Atlantic companies are premier providers of advanced wireline voice and data services, market leaders in wireless services and the world's largest publishers of directory information. Bell Atlantic companies are also among the world's largest investors in high-growth global communications markets, with operations and investments in 21 countries.

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