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4m in the US face broadband blackout

All hinges on judge's decision

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More than four million broadband cable users in the US face being cut off unless a dispute between Excite@Home and cable companies is resolved.

A US judge is due to rule on the matter later today after creditors of Excite@Home - which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in September - called for the service to be shut down.

If the judge sides with the creditors, customers could be left without Net access from this evening.

Pulling the plug at such short notice is thought unlikely. In a letter to customers Kim D Kelly, executive VP of New York-based cableco Insight Communications, said that he didn't think the "system will go dark" tonight. He assured customers that he and others were working "on a number of fronts to prevent this from happening".

However, as a precaution cable broadband users are being advised to make other arrangements for Net access and make back-ups of Web pages.

It's possible that today's potential blackout could be avoided if AT&T ups its offer for the broadband assets of Excite@Home.

It has already made an initial offer of $307 million but creditors said this wasn't enough. ®

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