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The information superhighway is already under construction and businesses who miss getting on at the light will be left behind, says an expert in computer communications.

Jon Parsons, speaking to the Chamber of Commerce's First Friday Forum on Friday, said no business can afford to ignore the capabilities being thrust upon the modern world."You need to understand it and understand how it works. It's essential," Parsons said.

"The information superhighway is shorthand. It means the integration of voice, data, video and still image with no more effort by the user than dialing a phone number," he quoted from Robert Allen, chief executive officer for AT&T.

All businesses depend on a good exchange of information through communication, Parsons said.

The potential for rapid communications is 50,000 times faster than phone service provides today, he said, transmitting information on light.

Parsons said the "superhighway" isn't something that will be built in a one-time effort but is being constructed piece-by-piece as the industry develops and invents.

He said infrared connectivity - as demonstrated recently by Novell's chief executive Robert J. Frankenberg at NetWare Solutions Expo in Salt Lake City - will be a big part of the future.

Parsons said everyone will be talking the same language, too, as protocols become linked and compatible.

Companies merging and acquiring other companies are actually "buying a chunk of the superhighway," Parsons said. "They're going to get there faster together.

"The industry dynamics are happening NOW. It's not going to take five to 10 years."

What businesses must do is get on-line and learn to connect electronically, he said, citing the success of the shopping networks and on-line services.

"The highway's here and many are already using it. You can, too."