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In an effort to spur the home networking world, EarthLink today is kicking off a new DSL-based home networking service that makes the basic gateway hardware free of charge to consumers. Available through March 31, the $149.95 discount deal makes the up-front cost of the wired version of EarthLink Home Networking free, and cuts the up-front cost of the wireless version in half, to just $150.

EarthLink Home Networking allows subscribers to share the high-speed DSL connection throughout the home and link computers, printers and peripherals onto a central, shared network.

Fifty-eight percent of broadband households and 40 percent of online PC households have multiple PCs, according to the Yankee Group's Networked Home Survey. In addition, 67 percent of broadband households and 59 percent of online PC households were "very" or "somewhat" interested in home networking.

The wired version of EarthLink Home Networking uses a home's standard telephone wiring or Ethernet to give users the ability to share their high-speed Internet connection and to network PCs, peripherals and Internet appliances without adding any wiring. The wireless version adds the ability to connect multiple computers throughout the home wirelessly using an integrated WiFi (802.11b) antenna. In addition, the HomePortal gateway provides commercial-grade firewall protection.

The EarthLink Home Networking service costs $9.95 per month.

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