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Verizon Wireless plans to spend $1 billion over the next two years to build a nationwide, high-speed Internet data network, The Wall Street Journal reported. A formal announcement by the nation's leading wireless carrier was expected at press time, a day after local phone-service titan Verizon Communications awarded Nortel Networks of Brampton, Ontario, an estimated $100 million contract to enable it to route calls over the Internet. Some analysts saw the investment as a sign that the long telecommunications slump may be ending.

MCI, the scandal-ridden communications giant, may bid on federal contracts again, the General Services Administration (GSA) announced Wednesday. The company was barred last July from doing business with the government, except on projects for which it alone was qualified. But a GSA official said it would be monitored closely for the next three years and would be required to submit detailed reports on its conduct and ethics with any bids. In July 2002, while still known as WorldCom, the company made the largest bankruptcy filing in corporate history, citing accounting irregularities that have since grown to an estimated $11 billion. In a statement welcoming the GSA announcement, company chief Michael Capellas said he and his staff have "worked diligently to fulfill all ... internal controls necessary to being a good federal contractor."

Duke Energy Corp. expects to take a $3.3 billion charge for the fourth quarter as it scales back its involvement in certain areas of business, the financial reporting service CBS MarketWatch said. The Charlotte, N.C., electric and gas utility told shareholders in a letter that it plans to sell some generating plants in the Southeastern US, cancel a joint venture with ExxonMobil, and cease operations in Europe and Australia.

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