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Info highway speeding up

As faster Net connections become more widely used, those with slower modems are watching their last contact points to the Net disappear.

Free email service Juno may be an oasis for the slowest modems, but even that company is gently urging its customers to speed up or ship out.

The company is sending email messages to its customers that try to connect at speeds slower than 9,600 bps, telling them that "In the future, if your modem attempts to connect at 2,400 bps or slower, it will not be able to do so. Instead, you will see a message that says 'Unable to transfer your mail to the Juno central computers,' and you will not be able to send or receive mail at that time. If you want to send or receive mail through Juno, you will have to increase the speed of your connection."

Juno is among the last providers to offer service of any kind to users with 9,600-bps modems. Most Internet service providers and online services will not accept customers who don't have at least a 14.4-kbps modem. Juno offers non-Net-based email for free to its subscribers--a service that is supported by advertising.

"Unfortunately, a 2,400-bps connection costs us several times as much as a 9,600-bps connection, and something like ten times as much as a connection with a typical fast modem. Because we are a free service, this extra cost is higher than we can afford," the email message said.

Company president Charles Ardai said the message is designed more as an aid for users who have 14.4-kbps modems that are not configured correctly and are connecting the user at a rate that is slower than the modem's potential. He insisted that the message is not an attempt to discourage users with 9,600-bps or 14.4-kpbs connections from using the service.

"Of course, we always appreciate the faster modems, but we value our customers with slower modems, as long as they are connecting at 9,600 bps or faster," he said.

The email message goes on to list reasons why a user might be connecting at a slow speed, including having 2,400-baud modem, a faster but misconfigured modem, a rush period at Juno where the service is flooded with an extremely high volume of incoming calls, or a temporary problem with the user's phone line or with the access number.