Slow Progress for High-Speed Access

Small businesses want broadband. Trouble is, providers aren't making the connections

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Small companies, including home-based businesses, are hungry for high-speed Internet access, but their chances of getting a place at the broadband table are fairly slim this year.

About 86% of companies anticipated being able to use broadband connections by the end of 2001, according to a survey by Cahners In-Stat Group. Only about 30%, however, will have access by then, estimates analyst Kneko Burney, director of e-business infrastructure and services at In-Stat.

Given the financial problems at local-exchange carriers -- including PSINet, Winstar, and Northpoint -- broadband deployment has slowed this year, which will keep "downstream markets" such as small companies and sole proprietors on hold.

When broadband is available, companies should choose their provider carefully. Warns Burney: "Just going with someone who's charging $10 less may not be the best choice right now," when so many carriers are pulling the plug." Have a contingency plan, she advises, so you can carry on fairly smoothly if your carrier goes out of business.

By Theresa Forsman in New York

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