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This week in broadband

Voters in Lafayette, La., OK a citywide fiber project, while Cingular plans to roll out wireless broadband in 15 to 20 markets by year's end.

Voters in Lafayette, La., approved a bond offering to fund a citywide fiber-optic project, an issue that was the source of considerable friction during the past year. Residents approved the measure 12,290 to 7,507.

The city of 116,000 residents has been planning to build its own fiber-optic network for more than a year. But local phone company BellSouth and cable operator Cox Communications challenged the project.

As Lafayette goes the fiber-optic route, Cingular Wireless plans to have wireless broadband networks up and running in 15 to 20 cities by year's end, as it tries to catch rival Verizon Wireless.

Cingular's commitment to having high-speed Internet available to 40 million Americans by January 2006 pressures No. 2 operator Verizon and No. 3 operator Sprint, which are rolling out similar networks to support new revenue-generating services such as video-on-demand.

Though they were relatively slow to catch on, wireless data services are finally being embraced in the United States--a promising sign given that each operator is spending billions of dollars to build faster networks.

At the same time, consumers are reaping the benefits of a growing discount war among phone and cable companies.

Last month, SBC Communications announced a promotional offer that lets customers get one year of DSL service for $14.95 per month. And earlier this year, Verizon increased speeds and kept its price of $29.95. "Cable prices are too high when you look at what you're getting in terms of megabits per dollar," said one cable user who plans to switch to a new service called Fios, which extends a high-speed fiber network directly to consumers' homes.