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Cable lanes to Net widen

Cablevision is the latest cable television company to launch high-speed Internet access over cable networks.

Cablevision Systems (CVC) today became the latest cable television company to launch high-speed Internet access over cable networks.

The nation's sixth-largest cable operator started Optimum Online in Long Island, New York. Cablevision is charging customers $34.95 per month for the service. But users also must pay a one-time installation fee of $100, as well as buy a cable modem for $295, or rent it for $10 per month.

The first phase of the rollout incorporates 15,000 homes in Oyster Bay, New York, but the company plans to expand the service to 150,000 homes on Long Island and in Connecticut by year's end. The company chose Bay Networks' LANcity modems for the rollout.

"The tremendous demand for online connections tells us what consumers want," said James Dolan, Cablevision's chief executive officer.

But the jury still is out on cable modem services. Despite the high-speed access, the cost is nearly double the $19.95 per month that most consumers pay for unlimited Net access on phone lines. And some cable companies are still trying to overcome their reputation for indifferent customer service.

This year marks a long-awaited rollout of Net access through cable nationally. The services include @Home, a venture of Comcast, Cox Communications, and Tele-Communications Incorporated; Time Warner's Road Runner; and Continental Cablevision's Highway1.

Also today, Cox launched a high-speed Net access service in Orange County, California, through the @Home network, a rollout that had been widely expected. Cox will provide local content including community news, information and entertainment through a subsidiary called Cox Interactive Media.

The competition is stiff, too. Other high-speed Net access services over phone lines, such as ISDN and ADSL, also are slowly being rolled out.