Not content to converge just with electricity, the gas industryis turning to telecommunications. Specifically, pipelines arefinding their rights of way make sense for the routing offiber-optic telecommunications cable.

Last week, El Paso Energy Communications Co., a subsidiary ofHouston-based El Paso Energy; Touch America, a subsidiary of TheMontana Power Co.; and PF.Net LLC of Vancouver, a privately heldcompany, plan to launch a $150 million project to create along-haul fiber-optic network linking Los Angeles and Houston.

The route, spanning 1,500 miles, will initially provide newconnectivity and advanced telecommunications services to severalgrowing metropolitan areas along the southwestern route, includingPhoenix, Tucson, and El Paso, in addition to Los Angeles andHouston. The project is scheduled for completion in 2000.

Touch America and El Paso Energy Communications are partneringfor a one-half interest in the route. Touch America is providingconstruction management for this segment of the project, while ElPaso Energy is providing right-of-way.

PF.Net is responsible for constructing the other half of theroute, whose owners are PF Telecom, headed by John Warta, and KochVentures, a wholly owned subsidiary of Koch Industries, which isthe second largest private company in the United States. KochIndustries has committed its 57,000 miles of right- of-way toPF.Net.

Also last week, Columbia Transmission Communications (CTC), awholly-owned subsidiary of Columbia Energy Group, unveiled plans tobegin building the initial leg of its telecommunications network.The initial leg of the overall route will extend 260 miles from NewYork City to Washington D.C. using Columbia Gas Transmission’sright-of-way. It will be capable of providing voice, data and videosignal access to 16 million people. The company is developing plansto extend this network to 2,500 route miles with direct access to35 million people throughout the eastern U.S.

Joe Fisher, Houston

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