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Ricochet fishes for broadband bites

The company hopes to reel in subscribers of other Web providers' dial-up service with a speed boost and the ability to keep their dial-up accounts, e-mail addresses and home pages.

Wireless Internet provider Ricochet on Tuesday began targeting subscribers of dial-up Web providers AOL, MSN and Yahoo that want to upgrade to a broadband home or office connection.

Ricochet Access, introduced Tuesday, lets subscribers of other companies' dial-up service do their surfing on Ricochet's wireless network. The network provides a connection that is about three times faster than dial-up service, the company said.

Ricochet Access users keep their dial-up account, e-mail addresses and home pages. Ricochet Access costs $30 a month. Subscribers must also purchase a $100 wireless router, which sends and receives the broadband access.

"What you are getting here is broadband to your house, even if a cable or DSL connection hasn't been built," said a Ricochet spokesman.

Ricochet in the late 1990s, when it was known as Metricom, spent hundreds of millions of dollars building a nationwide 176kbps wireless Web network. Original investors included Paul Allen's Vulcan Ventures.

But the original incarnation attracted just 50,000 subscribers, too few to keep going. It was purchased by its current owners, then called Aerie Networks, who purchased the network for pennies on the dollar two years ago. It has since relaunched the network in Denver and San Diego. The company's plans to rebuild the entire network have been scaled back dramatically. It now targets only a city at a time.