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More phone subscribers dial in to Cox

While Cox Communications posts record subscriber numbers, more customers continue to hang up on competitor Comcast's phone business.

Cable provider Cox Communications announced it has added a record number of new phone service subscribers, as it continues to push for a piece of the local and long-distance phone market.

Cox on Thursday said it passed the 1 million subscriber mark, recording 77,000 new cable phone customers during its last fiscal quarter.

Rival Comcast, meanwhile, finished 2003 with 171,500 telephone subscribers, about 4,000 less than expected. On Wednesday, amid the flurry of news surrounding its bid to buy Walt Disney, Comcast executives said the company's phone revenue will decrease 10 percent in 2004, its second consecutive yearly decline.

In a statement released along with its earnings, Comcast said the declining phone revenue reflects "a decrease in both subscribers and average revenue per user, a result of the company's reduced marketing and focus on profitability of the cable phone business."

A Comcast representative declined to comment when asked if Cox is wooing away customers by using a more aggressive marketing approach, something analysts have pointed out in the past.

Cox's announcement shows that the company continues to lead the cable industry's challenge to the dominant local and long-distance phone companies. Cable companies believe they can win customers by selling their broadband subscribers various forms of Internet phone calling, which is usually 20 percent to 30 percent lower in price than traditional phone plans.

While acknowledging the challenge, major phone companies say Internet phone services, from cable operators and other companies such as Vonage, haven't had an impact on their customer base.