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The number of American homes with high-speed Net access has doubled in a year, Nielson/Netratings says.

Twelve million households went online using speedy Internet connections such as ISDN, cable modems or DSL in December, compared to five million a year earlier.

The fact that nearly two thirds of homes still connect via a 56Kbps modem comes as little surprise, considering the well-documented difficulties still associated with getting services such as DSL access in the US.

In December 1999 the majority of US homes (43 per cent) were still crawling through the Internet with an access speed of 28.8/33.6Kbps.

"Streaming media is one of the chief incentives prompting users to switch to high-speed Web access, which is fast becoming the must-have service in the home," said T S Kelly, Internet media strategies director at the New York research outfit.

"That said, improvements in quality, ease-of-use, and accessibility must continue if streaming consumption is to become as commonplace as broadcast or cable television."

In related news, Covad, which resells DSL to ISPs, is facing a lawsuit after dumping one of its distributors. San Diego-based Internet Express failed to find a way to pay its $1.5 million debt to the company, so Covad cut off the ISP and its 500 subscribers.

According to Reuters, Internet Express CEO Barry Diamond has accused Covad of setting its distributors up to fail, and threatened a class-action lawsuit on behalf of subscribers and the ISPs that have helped net Covad 274,000 DSL accounts. ®

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