is the solution: a technology known as free-space lasers. The companies use laser beams, instead of radio waves, to transmit data, video or sound. Various reports peg transmission speeds at anywhere from 5Mbps to 10Mbps, at prices that vary depending on what market a consumer lives in.

Terabeam, based in Seattle, is one of the companies offering Internet services via free-space lasers, and The Wall Street Journal reported in late February that the company had three customers signed up in the city. Another company, Dallas-based Tellaire, is delivering 10Mbps LAN services in several cities, including Houston and Austin, Texas; Washington, D.C.; and New York.

Laser companies contend they can offer data services much more quickly to customers than other telecommunications providers because they dont need to dig trenches, lay cable or even buy spectrum.

VIRTUAL ASSISTED LIVING

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The states Department of Human Services (DHS) is taking technology to senior citizens, though not in the digital divide sense.

DHS received a $1 million grant from the Bush Foundation last year to fund organizations that devise and evaluate new methods of combining health services and housing for senior citizens, with the ultimate goal of duplicating successful methods in communities across the state.

Seven organizations will receive start-up funding from DHS this year to develop "virtual assisted living" programs to deliver services to seniors where they live, said Maria Gomez, assistant commissioner of continuing care.

"We will begin to create a system where innovation is valued and innovation can be disseminated," Gomez said. "The idea is that if you do this consistently, in a number of years you will have a very dynamic and efficient system out there, rather than these sort of encrusted systems that are inflexible and cant change with time. Thats the philosophy behind doing it this way."

She said the idea came from discussions about separating assisted-living services from dedicated physical locations that provide those services. "By putting together a package of supporting services, we can bring those services to any house, and then we have an assisted-living program without having to build a big building," she said.

The state has plenty of senior housing, Gomez said, so senior citizens have a place to live. What they need is more health services. "Our seniors have a place to stay, and they want to stay where they are," she said. "Its just that they need more services to stay where they are. It makes sense for us to go this route, rather than building more and more buildings."

One funding recipient, Good Samaritan Home Health Care in Windom, Minn., will use the money to provide assisted-living services via technology. The organization will use a TV monitor and camera connected to a telephone line to check on senior citizens in their homes. During the day, home health aides can use the system to make sure senior citizens are healthy or to pass along reminders of medication schedules.

ONE FAST ELECTRIC CAR

SAN DIMAS, Calif. -- When people consider buying an electric car, their motivation probably is not racing. But the tZero, an electric car manufactured by AC Propulsion , will give a Porsche a run for its money.

In fact, the vehicle goes from zero to 60 in a remarkable 4.1 seconds and covers the quarter mile in 13.2 seconds, the company claims. The tZeros top speed is 90 mph -- which falls far short of what a Porsche can muster, but still should give speed junkies reason to take a look.

The tZero sports a 200-horsepower, premium copper-rotor