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Want Wi-Fi? Verizon takes it home

The telecommuniations provider now offers wireless home networking equipment made by Linksys for Wi-Fi fans.

Verizon Communications on Wednesday became the second Web service provider to sell wireless home networking equipment directly to subscribers.

Six million to 8 million U.S. homes have installed home networks that use Wi-Fi, a technology that allows devices located within a 300 foot radius to communicate without wires. Verizon is looking to cash in on a boom in Wi-Fi networks, expected to triple in number by 2006.

Linksys manufactures the Verizon equipment, which includes a Wi-Fi access point and a laptop modem. The access point sells for between $100 and $180, while the modem sells for $90. The networking package also includes a high-speed Web account, which costs between $39 and $49 a month, Verizon representative Bobbi Henson said.

AT&T Broadband has been selling wireless home networking equipment direct to its own subscribers for several months.

Not all broadband providers are jumping on the Wi-Fi wagon. Time Warner Cable does not yet have any plans to sell Wi-Fi equipment, a representative said Wednesday.

One of Time Warner Cable's subsidiaries, Time Warner Cable of New York City, raised the hackles of Wi-Fi users in June when it requested that accounts not be used to offer wireless access points to Wi-Fi surfers for free.

The cable provider didn't comment Wednesday on whether it has actually shut down service to some customers, as it had threatened to do.

With the package, Verizon plans to offer free troubleshooting services to customers. "Most people say they want this," Henson said.

AT&T Broadband directs troubleshooting and installation help to Linksys. AT&T Broadband representative Sara Eder said the company is exploring whether to offer its own service in the future.

Cahners In-Stat analyst Allan Nogee said offering a troubleshooting service could be a costly gamble, as it could cost up to $300 a call if the company has to send a technician to customer's home.