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Broadband more likely at the office than home

Once you've tasted high-speed Internet, there's no going back to dial-up modems.

At least that was the theory. But a new study by media researcher Coleman and Arbitron Webcast Services, a division of the company that measures radio audiences, shows that the 70 percent of people with speedy Web access at work go home every night to slower modems and have no plans to upgrade.

"I think two years ago, before we were realistic, we thought everything was going to be fast and wireless," said Pierre Bouvard, president of Arbitron Webcast Services. "We seem to forget that there are a lot of people who just signed up in the past few years and they're still pretty happy with their America Online."

Consumers are skipping fast Internet service at home because it may not be available in their neighborhood, it costs more than an AOL account and installing it is perceived as a hassle, said Steve Yonish, an analyst with Forrester Research Inc.

Fast Internet access, called broadband, has much greater capacity to transfer information than a typical AOL user's telephone line. Cable modems, digital subscriber lines and satellite connections offer speeds 10 to 100 times faster than a 56k dial-up modem.

High-speed Internet, in either cable or DSL form, costs about $40 to $50 a month _ the same price Amy Mattern, an account associate at the T&O advertising agency in Irvine, Calif., pays for six months' worth of dial-up service.

"The price wouldn't be worth it to me," said Mattern, who added that she doesn't know how she would survive without broadband at the office. But using the Internet at home is different.

"It doesn't really bother me to have to wait," she said.

Arbitron's survey, which polled 800 broadband users nationwide, concludes that once you've tried broadband, you're still willing to go back to dial-up, which means converting office users to home users will be a challenge.

Many in the industry disagree with the conclusions of the survey and say the 70 percent will come around.

"High-speed Internet still has a novelty to it," Yonish said. "But that will diminish pretty quickly in the next few years and, when that diminishes, people will find they need it like they need cable TV."

Yonish expects that many of the holdouts will change their minds in a year, although he is a holdout with no plans to order broadband at home.