Comcast offers free digital music players

Cable giant is giving away Nomad players in push to sign up new high-speed Net customers as competition heightens.

Comcast is tapping into the frenzy over MP3 players in a push to sign up new high-speed Internet service customers.

The company is giving away Nomad MuVo digital music players from Creative Technology to new residential high-speed Internet subscribers who activate the service by March 31. The music player, which costs about $50 at online retail shops, can hold up to 128 megabytes of data, or about 30 songs.

The online promotion also includes 10 free songs from Rhapsody, RealNetworks' online music store, and a discount rate of $19.99 a month for the first three months of high-speed service. After the third month, the price of the service shoots up to $56.99. Customers must order the service online to qualify for the freebies.

Comcast has been polishing its broadband services in an effort to hang on to its top position in the market. In just the past two months, the company has promised to raise its broadband speeds by at least a third this year; launched a phone service over Internet lines, or voice over Internet Protocol; and announced plans for an instant-messaging service with video-streaming capabilities.

The company faces heightened competition from cable rivals Cox Communications and Time Warner Cable, as well as numerous regional DSL (digital subscriber line) providers. However, Comcast still remains the dominant provider, with more than 7 million high-speed Internet subscribers. Growth in its broadband unit helped fuel a 10 percent rise in the cable giant's fourth-quarter profit and revenue.

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