National Internet Companies Seek D.C. Address

Even businesses based outside the Netplex are opening Washington Internet divisions

It used to be that information technology companies would open Washington offices as a hub for their federal sales operations.

More recently, certain infotech firms have located near the nation's capital to lobby the Federal Communications Commission and Congress, and to be closer to policy-making in general.

There is, however, another reason to be in town: the Internet. While many companies were born here, some are relocating, and many more are opening Washington divisions and branch offices.

In 1995, the Washington area had the highest number of computers per capita on the Internet of any region in the country, according to Matrix Information and Directory Services, Austin, Texas. And the Greater Washington Initiative found that more than half of all international Internet traffic moves through Washington.

Internet companies abound here in Washington, from content behemoth America Online, Dulles, Va., to access giant PSINet, Herndon, Va.

Omaha, Neb.-based MFS Communications Co., which recently bought UUnet Technologies Inc., Fairfax, Va., and was even more recently acquired by WorldCom, has opened a new division -- MFS Intelenet in Silver Spring, Md. "We're certainly excited to be a player in Silver Spring's fast emerging business market," said Richard Stoll, sales manager for MFS Intelenet.

Meanwhile, Atlanta-based HomeCom Communications, an Internet development company, has opened a new office in McLean, Va. "Washington, D.C., is the Internet capital of the world," said Harvey Sax, president of HomeCom. Sax pointed to the investments by the Advanced Research Projects Agency and the National Science Foundation, both located in Washington, as the seeds of the Internet's growth.

"There is a concentration of government, industry security and Internet technology need and expertise in the D.C. area," Sax said.

HomeCom has tapped Roger Nebel to run the Washington office. Nebel has been in the systems integration business for 20 years with the Defense Information Systems Agency, the Internal Revenue Service and the Drug Enforcement Agency, among others.

"I've watched the Internet steadily grow over the past two decades with the government customer and now it's exploding in the commercial market," said Nebel. The new office will focus on Internet security consulting.

In addition to corporations, many associations, including the Internet Society, Reston, Va., are based in the Netplex.

It won't be long before Internet companies without a Washington presence will feel out of the loop.

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