Washington, long the information-junkie capital of the world, could soon become the interactive information-junkie capital.

A cadre of local businesses--a pager company, two online newspapers, an investment bank and a technology firm--is forming a network to offer consumers nationwide personalized news and financial data.


Strategy Inc. of Vienna plans to launch Strategy.com, a "personal intelligence" service, on Monday. The company's partners are pager company Metrocall Inc. of Alexandria; washington-

post.com of Rosslyn; USAToday.com of Arlington; and FBR.com, the online investing arm of Friedman, Billings, Ramsey Group Inc., an Arlington investment bank. That from Michael Quint, a spokesman for MicroStrategy.

Strategy.com subscribers will be able to order customized news and financial information delivered to them directly through their computers, pagers or cell phones. The service is in some ways like others currently used by active stock traders; for example, it might warn you when your stock portfolio dips below a certain percentage. But what's different in this combination is that the service could also provide personalized news-to-use, such as telling you that an accident has blocked your preferred route to work and suggesting an alternate path.

Details of the deal's terms were sketchy, but the affiliate companies--which pay a setup fee to MicroStrategy and then split royalties according to different contracts--will market the service through their own sales forces and Web sites.

MicroStrategy announced a similar alliance last month to develop trading alert services with online broker Ameritrade.

The deals are part of an added business focus for MicroStrategy, which so far has made its money mining the databases of large companies and analyzing that information. MicroStrategy is now trying to market its own consumer services. And Quint says the firm won't just play local favorites with this customized news alert service: It plans to sign up other partners on this deal, expanding the network.

The MicroStrategy deal isn't all that's going on over at Friedman, Billings, Ramsey Group. "Customers are taking control of their financial future," says Suzanne Richardson, the new president of FBR.com, the firm's Web site. Yesterday, for the first time, it allowed its customers to start trading online, joining the gaggle of cyberbrokers.

Through the site, individuals can make trades, read FBR analysts' research and invest in initial public offerings that are underwritten by FBR. Richardson, who has been with FBR since the company was founded in 1989, had been head of technology investment banking there.

"We're democratizing the investment process," Richardson says.

FBR charges $25 per online trade now, close to what several other big firms are charging, although there are several discount online brokerages that will execute transactions for less than half that amount. But Richardson predicts fees will come down across the industry.

One of the many controversies at the first meeting of the federal Advisory Commission on Electronic Commerce, which met in Williamsburg this week, involved a simple question: "Where is Bob Pittman?"

The group is supposed to make address the awesome issues of whether and how to tax Internet sales, and then make recommendations to Congress.

A powerful mandate. So much so that the first meeting was delayed by a lawsuit filed in federal court by the National Association of Counties and the U.S. Conference of Mayors, which contended that America Online Inc. would have too much say in deciding the future of Internet taxation. That's because with the merger of AOL and Netscape Communications Corp., the board would have had two AOLers, President Bob Pittman and Netscape chief Jim Barksdale.

Barksdale, who has since left Netscape, also stepped down from the 19-member board. One problem solved. Delna Jones, a county commissioner in Washington County, Ore., was appointed in his place, and the lawsuit was dropped.

Given that history, there was quite a stir when, in answer to the many queries, AOL aides replied that Pittman was out of the country.

Internet service provider PSINet Inc. of Herndon has been on an acquisition spree, snapping up two companies, both for undisclosed amounts, on Tuesday.

The purchase of Caribbean Internet in San Juan, Puerto Rico, makes PSINet the country's second largest ISP. About 30 percent of Internet users in Puerto Rico use Caribbean Internet.

PSINet also bought the Internet Access Co.of Bedford, Mass., which has 33,000 business and consumer customers on the East Coast.

TechTrader.com of Washington, a business-to-business electronic commerce company, has snared a $2 million venture capital infusion from Mid-Atlantic Venture Funds of Reston.

Send tips and tales of the digital capital's local people, deals and events to Shannon Henry at henrys@washpost.com.

CAPTION: "Customers are taking control of their financial future," says Suzanne Richardson, president of FBR.com.