MCI and Microsoft place emphasis on conferencing: MCI Communications Corp., Washington, D.C., and Microsoft Corp., Redmond, Wash., have formed a partnership to offer conferencing over the Internet.

The Microsoft software program, "NetMeeting," with the help of MCI, is designed to simplify audio and document conferencing over the Internet. Users can talk or work jointly on a document in real time. "The bridge between Internet communications and worldwide conferencing is getting shorter," said Brad Chase, general manager of the Internet platform and tools division at Microsoft.

Separately, MCI announced it will add about 300 jobs in Vienna, Va., and Bethel, Conn., all of which will be geared toward MCI's conferencing operations. MCI plans to open a mid-Atlantic multimedia conferencing call center on July 1 in Vienna, which will employ 175 people. A Northeast office in Bethel will be staffed with 200 people.

California dreaming for Pac Bell and AOL: Regional Bell operating company Pacific Bell, San Francisco, said it will offer Internet services to 7 million California customers. Pacific Bell Internet costs $19.95 a month for unlimited use. The offering will include access to America Online, the Vienna, Va.-based content service. Both Pac Bell and AOL are greatly interested in tapping the California market, which has the highest percentage of consumers in the country who own computers (47 percent) and who have on-line accounts (11 percent).

Another choice for Internet access: LCI International, McLean, Va., has launched a commercial national Internet offering. LCI@ccess will be for sale through a partnership with Beltsville, Md.-based DIGEX. "With LCI@ccess, customers can get the same fair and inexpensive service for Internet connections that they have for voice service," said Lawrence Bouman, senior vice president of engineering, operations and technology at LCI.

Wireless Internet trial in Washington: CAI Wireless Systems Inc., Albany, N.Y., has begun an Internet access trial in Washington, D.C., that uses high-speed wireless modems. The wireless television company claims the modems work seven times faster than the fastest telephony-based modem. And because it's wireless, the product can work in areas where cable is not installed and does not require a cable subscription.

Currently, the Navy Computer and Telecommunications Station in Washington, the George Washington University and Churchill Elementary School in McLean, Va., are participating in the trial.

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