updated 12/6/2004 10:10:11 PM ET 2004-12-07T03:10:11

BellSouth Corp., the dominant local phone provider in nine states from North Carolina to Florida, plans to deploy a next-generation DSL technology that will allow it to offer Internet connections up to twice as fast as its existing service.

The network upgrade will cost up to $2 billion, the Atlanta-based company announced Monday at an investor conference in New York. It's part of an effort to better compete with cable TV providers who have siphoned customers away from telephone companies with speedier Internet connections.

The technology, ADSL2+, will enable download speeds between 4 megabits per second and 6 mbps, and upload speeds from 512 kbps to 768 kbps, BellSouth said.

That would be up from the current maximum download speed of 3 mbps with uploads of 384 kbps available through BellSouth.

Cable download speeds vary between 3 mbps and 6 mbps with upstream speeds of 384 kbps.

The new BellSouth service is due to arrive in select markets by next year. Prices have not been determined, spokesman Brent Fowler said. The current top-level service is priced starting at $44.95.

BellSouth said it may be able to reach 80 percent of the households in its territory with the ADSL2+ technology at a cost of roughly $300 per household.

Verizon Communications Inc. of New York and SBC Communications Inc. of San Antonio recently announced plans to replace copper lines in their telephone networks with fiber-optic cables so they can offer TV services and boost Internet speeds for their customers.

Verizon's blueprint calls for the fiber to stretch right into the home. The plan at BellSouth is to bring fiber to the curb and then complete the connection over the existing copper lines. SBC wants to extend fiber to the neighborhood before handing off to copper.

Verizon's approach is the most expensive — from $800 to $2,500 per home — but could theoretically deliver hundreds or thousands of times the amount of bandwidth allowed by today's copper wires.

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