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A modem in every pot

Like the two-car garage, the second phone line for the Internet is quickly becoming an American standard.

Like a two-car garage, a second phone line for the Internet is becoming an American standard, with lines being installed in record numbers across the country.

At a speech in Washington today, Bell Atlantic chief executive Ray Smith said the company's goal is to connect 50 percent of its customers with second lines in five years to keep up with the demand. This year alone, he said, the company expects to hook up 800,000 customers with second lines.

The boom is by no means confined to the East Coast. On the other side of the nation, Pacific Bell is reporting record increases in new customer lines. Pac Bell leads the seven Baby Bells in residential customers with more than one line.

The reason for the increases is the exploding number of Net users in the state, according to Rick Hronicek, president of Pacific Bell Internet Services. California handles an estimated one-third or more of the nation's Net traffic, and that's Pac Bell's chief territory.

Residential lines for Pac Bell have grown by 4.2 percent since the same time last year. That's a significant increase over the 3.1 annual growth rate reported previously.

Company executives disclosed today that they will launch a marketing campaign next month that offers discounted Internet access for customers who install a second phone line in their home. The program is a first, but other Baby Bells are expected to follow.

Many of the Baby Bells are also ramping up their ISDN services and expect to launch high-speed XDSL connections next year, which will fuel the second-line growth even further.