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Verizon wires Southwest California with fiber optics

By this time next year, Southwest California will be among the first regions in the United States to be wired with a high-speed, state-of-the-art fiber-optic network with Internet connection speeds up to 20 times faster than DSL.

Verizon Communications (NYSE: VZ) is in the process of installing fiber-optic cable that will give every home and business in the region access to high-speed Internet connections and faster downloads. When the installation is completed sometime in 2006, Southwest California - Temecula, Murrieta, Lake Elsinore and portions of Riverside County -- will be one of the first "smart" communities in the nation equipped with high-speed fiber-optic network.

In the next several months, all who live and work in Murrieta will be able to connect to a fiber-optic cable network being installed by Verizon. The technology, called fiber to the premises (FTTP), will provide Internet connection speeds at least three times as fast as DSL and faster. Eventually, the same hair-like optical fibers could provide telephone and cable television services.

Starting in the third quarter, Verizon will begin wiring Temecula, and next year, a fiber-optic network will be installed in Lake Elsinore, according to Jon Davies, Verizon spokesman.

The service, which Verizon calls "Fios," ultimately expands the reach of high-speed Internet service in Southwest California. Previously, copper wire-based DSL service was restricted to customers located within 3.5 miles of the phone company's central office, which meant not everyone was eligible to get DSL.

"This had a huge impact on Murrieta," said Doug McAllister, Murrieta city councilman. "FTTP changes how you do everything."

And because fiber-optic cable is less vulnerable to the elements than traditional copper wire, it requires less maintenance. Repairs, when they are needed, take hours compared with the days needed to restore copper wire-based service.

Fios comes with connection speeds of 5 megabytes per second (mbps), 15 mbps and 30 mbps. DSL averages about 1.5 mbps and cable modem about 2 to 2.5 mbps.

The service means much faster download speeds. It takes anywhere from four to five days to download a feature movie with dialup. With DSL, it drops to about two to four hours, but with Fios, the entire download is completed in 13 minutes.

For teacher and businessman Alain Jourdier, the benefits of hooking up to high-speed Internet network are clear. He says it works a lot better than cable and is less expensive.

"I teach marketing at UCLA and run a marketing consulting business," the Murrieta resident said. "So I'm online 15 to 17 hours a day and I need a connection that moves fast."

For computer consultant Ken Pollard, the service means expanded bandwidth for moving large amounts of data.

"This has changed my business dramatically," he explained. "As far as Internet connectivity goes, this is like going from a straw to a fire hose."

In addition to making the thousands of traditional and home-based businesses in Murrieta more efficient, Fios technology gives residents the opportunity to work from home rather than spend hours a day commuting to jobs in San Diego and Orange counties.

Each day more than 30,000 residents of Southwest California hop into their cars and head to jobs in San Diego County. The daily commute, which typically averages three hours, clogs freeways and takes away from the commuters' family life. Fiber-optic cable with Internet connection speeds up to 20 times faster than DSL may allow a large number of these road warriors to work from home or telecommute.

The technology also may encourage large employers in San Diego to offer their commuter employees the option of working from cost effective telecommuting centers closer to home.

Ultimately, Fios is a powerful magnet that will allow Southwest California to attract more companies and better paying jobs, so its residents spend more time at home with their families rather than on the road commuting to nearby counties.

"This certainly gives Murrieta an edge over other communities with Internet, phone and cable service that is faster, better and less expensive," said Gregory Lee, manager of business development for the Southwest California Economic Alliance, a regional business and job attraction group that includes the cities of Murrieta, Lake Elsinore and Temecula and Riverside County.

"It gives them a competitive edge and helps us compete with the big guys," he said.

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