Qwest Communications International Inc. on Monday plans to begin offering Internet-based phone service to consumers in Minnesota and hopes to offer the service across its 14-state local territory by the end of 2004, according to national media reports, quoting Qwest chief Dick Notebaert.

Notebaert told reporters Thursday Qwest would match the price of broadband phone company Vonage Holdings Corp., according to a Dow Jones News Service article. Vonage, of Edison, N.J., offers unlimited local and long-distance phone service throughout Canada and the United States for $34.99 a month.

“We hope to be in all states by the end of next year,” Scripps Howard News Service quoted Notebaert as saying.

In October, a Minnesota judge ruled the state regulator didn’t have the authority to regulate voice over Internet protocol service. The FCC has yet to rule on how to regulate such companies, but the agency hosted a forum Monday to discuss the topic.

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