Maita/Saviano Public Relations
and Integrated Opportunities to Help Bridge the "Digital Divide" By Offering Rural
Electric Consumers Net Access Via Phone
Utilities Will Have Opportunity to Offer Consumers Ability to Hear Web Pages,
Review Utility Rates and Offerings, and Pay Energy Bills -- Without a Computer
San Jose, CA -- August 30, 2000 -- InternetSpeech.com and Integrated Opportunities
today announced a partnership aimed at offering many rural Americans who don't
have Internet access a new way to get on the World Wide Web by using an ordinary
InternetSpeech.com's unique netECHO product, Integrated Opportunities will offer
audio Internet access to Rural Electric Cooperatives (RECs) and Municipal Power
Authorities (MPAs) throughout the nation. Today, these user-owned utilities serve
more than 30 million consumers, and Integrated Opportunities has existing agreements
to serve one million of these customers.
For consumers primarily interested in utility Web information, the agreement also
calls for InternetSpeech.com to "voice-enable" REC and MPA Web sites, making it
possible for consumers to call in by phone and hear Web site information that
computer users are able to see on the screen. They can listen to account information,
review utility rates and offerings, and pay bills -- all without a computer.
exciting proposition will help bridge the digital divide by offering REC and MPA
customers simple and convenient access to Internet-based information using a telephone,"
said Garen Ewbank, founder of Integrated Opportunities.
Individual RECs and MPAs will develop their own prices for the audio Internet
services they choose to offer their users.
70% of rural America is not yet connected to the Internet, but we expect to see
that change as consumers learn the benefits of accessing the Net via the familiar
and easy-to-use telephone," said Dr. Emdad Khan, President and CEO of InternetSpeech.com.
By using simple voice commands, subscribers to the audio Internet access services
will be able to locate and hear information from any Web site, check their e-mail,
and access voice portal services, such as news, sports, weather and stock quotes.
Customers going directly to voice-enabled REC or MPA Web sites through a special
toll-free number will be able to review their electric meter status, request account
information, review utility news, participate in surveys, and pay their bills.
Some MPAs and RECs offer distance learning business management courses, which
could also be made available through phone access. In a nutshell, netECHO technology
can take the existing MPA and REC Web pages, and make them instantly accessible
in audio format. As the sites' content changes, it is also dynamically changed
in audio format, so users always get the most up-to-date information. "netECHO
enables rural economic development by bringing e-commerce to consumers who feel
most comfortable with telephone access to information" said Jay Spencer, Integrated
Integrated Opportunities will co-locate and co-host InternetSpeech.com's netECHO
technology at its facilities, which are located in Oklahoma City, OK. Field-based
usability testing of the services is currently underway, and at least one electric
cooperative will pilot the service in October.
netECHO uses technology that integrates text-to-speech, speech recognition, telephone
interface, multimedia and intelligent agents. Unlike other services, netECHO reads
actual Web pages without rewriting them into Voice Extensible Mark-up Language
InternetSpeech.com, a privately held company headquartered in San Jose, Calif.,
develops, markets and supports an Audio Internet Browser, netECHO, which provides
audio-based telephone access to the Internet for businesses and individuals. The
company's patent-pending technology can be bundled with other products, such as
traditional computer-based Internet access, or voice mail, and can be customized
to meet individual business needs, such as employee access to Intranet sites.
InternetSpeech.com also offers business software that automates the process of
voice-enabling a company's Web site, furthering development of the "voice Web."
InternetSpeech.com has been testing its netECHO consumer product since June. For
more information about InternetSpeech.com, visit www.InternetSpeech.com,
or call 1-408-360-7730.
Integrated Opportunities works with user-owned utilities to provide technology,
knowledge and communication-based solutions that foster economic development in
the rural and outlying areas of the United States. Integrated Opportunities seeks
and develops opportunities for Rural Electric Cooperatives and Municipal Power
Authorities to offer value-added services that grow their revenue stream, and
help sustain an area's economic vitality. The Oklahoma City, OK-based company
is currently working with Media Fusion to provide broadband communication services
via existing powerlines.
For more information about Integrated Opportunities, visit www.io-group.com,
or call 405-606-2000.