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No relief for Hartford @Home

High speed Internet users in Hartford, Connecticut, will have to wait a few more days before problems they have had with the @Home Network will be resolved.

High speed Internet users in Hartford, Connecticut, will have to wait a few more days before the recent problems they have had with the @Home Network will be resolved.

Many @Home users were hoping that a late night repair would alleviate slow service some have experienced since October. Tele-Communications Incorporated, the largest partner in @Home's cable modem Internet service, was slated replace a router today, according to TCI spokesman David Capo.

But in an apologetic letter posted yesterday on a newsgroup to @Home users, the company said the problem is one of network capacity, not a malfunctioning router as initially believed, and will require @Home to buy additional high-speed DS-3 circuits through Sprint, its current backbone provider.

@Home said an increase in network traffic affected users connecting to the Internet via @Home's Network Regional Data Center in Hartford. The service delays also affected customers accessing @Home through Cox Communications and Cablevision, in addition to TCI.

"Recognizing our larger than anticipated growth in network traffic, we ordered an additional access circuit to address the growing capacity requirements," the company wrote. "Our scheduled deployment of the circuit is slated for Friday, January 15. However, we are aiming to expedite the process and have the additional capacity available early this week."

@Home recently signed a backbone deal with AT&T that the company hopes will help solve any future capacity constraints.

"That's why we did this deal with AT&T, so we don't have to keep going back and saying we need more capacity," said @Home spokesman Matt Wolfrom.

@Home said "a couple thousand" customers in Hartford may have experienced sluggish Web surfing over the last four months.

"It's faster to use a dial-up modem, a 28.8 or a 56K, than it is to use a cable modem," said a frustrated Scott Greczkowski, an information systems director for a law firm and moderator of the Connecticut @Home Users Group.

The small group of about 30 @Home users was formed after many had trouble connecting to Internet sites, Greczkowski said. The problems have been severe enough that a handful of area @Home users have considered filing a class action lawsuit against the company, he added.

TCI's Capo said recent performance-related complaints concerning @Home also included an increased rate of packet loss--missing information from file transfers or other data transfers--as well as slow surfing.

These service problems are not the first for @Home and TCI. Many users in Fremont, California--@Home's first market--suffered with slow network access last year. The access problems, coupled with limits @Home has on the length of "broadcast quality" video users can download, had irked some subscribers.

The company also is considering, but has not yet implemented, network-wide upload limits of about 128 Kbps, equivalent to ISDN speeds. The upload limits already are in place in some areas of the Fremont market.

TCI's Capo said many users experienced packet loss when the company did not properly set up filters for an @Home subscriber's active server. The subscriber's server was mistakenly recognized as a router so "messages were going to this person's server and just dying there," he said.

Capo said that problem was corrected in late December.