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The Federal Communications Commission’s annual report on high-speed Internet access, released late last month, indicates that SOHO businesses are growing in popularity.

High-speed lines connecting businesses and residences grew by 18 percent in the first six months of 2003, the FCC reported. More telling perhaps is that advanced services lines—those that deliver more than 200K bps both ways—grew 32 percent in the first half of last year.

Technology providers increasingly are targeting small offices and home offices. Equipment makers and service providers are teaming up to make networking in small offices less complicated.

Late last month, Cisco Systems Inc.’s Linksys division and EarthLink Inc. joined forces to deliver wireless and wired home networking products. The idea is to make it easier for users to get the appropriate hardware for Internet access. The companies are promoting the partnership by offering the Linksys Wireless-B router to new EarthLink subscribers.

The growing popularity of SOHO products is spurring other vendors to upgrade their wares to make home-office networking as productive as enterprise networking. Iogear Inc., a manufacturer in Irvine, Calif., recently launched the Broadband Office Storage Server, targeted at the home office. The appliance, which shares a DSL or cable modem connection, was built to store files, photos and music to host a Web site.

These moves come as part of a larger trend in the commoditization of low-end routing equipment.

With a total of 23.5 million high-speed lines in service, working from a home office or from a small, remote office is accessible to more people than ever. In the first half of last year, the number of high-speed asymmetric DSL lines grew by 19 percent to 7.7 million, and high-speed connections over cable increased by 20 percent to 13.7 million.

“It was about 1999 when I got high-speed Internet, and … it’s made life easier,” said Gilbert Austin, president of CoreTechs Consulting Inc., in Silver Spring, Md., adding that the Web hosting services he provides require reliable high-speed connectivity. “There is a lot of low-end equipment out there today. You no longer have to buy the most expensive router.”