FRAMINGHAM (04/05/2000) - Touch America, the carrier buying Qwest Communications International Ltd.'s long-distance business in the US West region, announced that its parent company is spinning off its energy businesses to concentrate on telecommunications. The parent, Montana Power, will get rid of electricity, natural gas, coal and oil interests to reshape itself as a next-generation carrier rather than a traditional, dividend-paying utility.

Qwest said they chose Touch America to take over the US West region long-distance voice and data business because telecom won't be a sideline for the new player. Qwest soon won't be able to carry long-distance traffic in the 14-state US West region because it is buying US West, which doesn't yet have the required state-by-state long-distance approvals.

Cable & Wireless PLC signed its largest wholesale Internet access customer this week. Microcast, an Internet video streaming services company, signed up to buy 24 OC-12 lines to connect Microcast's video servers to the Cable & Wireless Internet backbone. The deal is valued at $91 million. Microcast offers live and archived streaming video services to advertisers and content providers.

By the end of the month, is expected to launch a virtual private network (VPN) service that will support dedicated Internet access between multiple locations. Although the ISP supports dedicated VPN services for customers on a case-by-case basis, its Virtual Private Dial Network is its only formal VPN offering. is also building more Web hosting data centers.

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