IN THE NETPLEX

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Whooo doggie: The past two weeks have resulted in a blizzard of changes for Internet companies inside and outside the Beltway -- exceptional even in an industry where rapid change and 400 percent to 800 percent growth is common. As one D.C. market analyst said, "Pass me the oxygen, because we have passed 15,000 feet, and my lips are starting to turn blue."


PSINet, shaken, not stirred: Marty Shoffstall's departure from PSINet Inc., Herndon, Va., followed his father's leaving by one week. Son Marty, founder, CTO, and various other titles, had put father Martin on the payroll in the finance department. Marty had his departure planned for a while, given his unloading of stock in mid-December.

In the long run, most wagging tongues agree that Marty's departure is a good thing for PSINet, because Steve Shoffstall, Marty's brother and director of sales, probably will follow -- or be pushed to follow -- his relatives out the door.

True or false?: A front-page article in PC Week's Jan. 15 issue said Bell Atlantic was in the market to buy PSINet. If true, why would founder Marty Shoffstall leave at this time? If false, who at PSINet is planting the stories? [The why, given PSINet's plunging stock prices, is easy enough to define.]

Bell Atlantic's Internet strategy is something that even Bell Atlantic is confused about.
On the one hand, Bell Atlantic has looked over numerous Internet providers for acquisition, but has never shown the decisiveness to shell out hard cash. On the other hand, Bell Atlantic is still plodding forward with building its own Internet Services division, which appears to be recycled personnel and resources from Bell Atlantic Video Services of "Stargazer" interactive TV/video-on-demand fame.
On the gripping hand [Yes, Internet City writers have been reading too much sci-fi lately], Bell Atlantic is trying to market IP aggregation services. Bell Atlantic would use its facilities and technicians to merge lots of modems and/or leased lines together into a single data stream, then pass it off to the Internet service provider through a SMDS (Switched Multimegabit Data Service) connection.
Bell Atlantic wins because they can conserve resources by pulling everything together and shipping it to the provider on a single 34 megabit connection, rather than having to drag in a bunch of T1s.

Goat horns, but no sheep: The Baltimore Business Journal published its first ever list of "Leading Maryland Internet Providers," listing Beltsville's Digital Express Group in the No. 1 slot, based on the number of reported dial-up users. DIGEX marketing staff, fearing the worst because the company focuses on business-to-business sales rather than consumer dial-up, vigorously insisted total sales revenue be used as a yardstick.

ClarkNet of Ellicott City might have exceeded DIGEX's reported 8,400 dial-up customers, but failed to get survey information in time to be considered.

Magic or misprint? The No. 2 provider on the Baltimore Business Journal's list, Komplete Internet Services LLC of Frederick, Md., reported more than 7,000 dial-up accounts, all this since it opened for business in 1995.

Because FredNet, also of Frederick, has been open a year longer, yet only reported 2,000 accounts, there's definitely something wrong with this picture. Perhaps Komplete's owner, a self-proclaimed "witch" [Kid you not, check http://www .kis.com], cast a spell? If this column doesn't appear in the next issue, look for us on the lily pad.
Internet City's intrepid reporter covers the hottest section of Washington's information technology market. Tips and tattles are always welcome at technews@technews.com; please write "Tales of the City" in the subject line.

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