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Telco MCI Inc. is making the connection to cable as part of a plan to expand its Internet Broadband portfolio to cover high-speed cable access.

Combined with its existing products aimed at digital subscriber line (DSL) connections, that will give MCI the ability to reach about 90 percent of all U.S. businesses.

The foray into cable service is possible in part through a June agreement MCI forged with Vancouver, Wash.-based New Edge Networks, a provider of last-mile broadband network connections for business and carrier customers. The June agreement covered DSL services using New Edge's broadband "Bigfoot" service that reaches 300 metro markets.

MCI has now extended the relationship with New Edge to include broadband cable connections via Charter Communications Inc., Cox Communications Inc. and Time Warner Cable. The service will offer connection speeds of at least 768 kbps downstream and 256 kbps upstream, along with round-the-clock customer service and support and consolidated billing.

The cable Internet service is targeted at businesses, including retailers, service companies and firms with multiple office locations that are looking for a low-cost, always-on broadband connection. It is also ideal to reach teleworkers, given cable's residentially-focused infrastructure.

"With MCI's expanded broadband portfolio, businesses can turn to MCI for nationwide uniform service across access options, without the complexity of managing multiple solutions from different providers," said Nancy Gofus, MCI's senior vice president of product management, in a release.

In addition to the service, MCI also will offer an Internet Protocol virtual private network connection to customers wanting a secure connection for sensitive information transfers. The VPN service encrypts data transferred between locations, and the service can be pre-configured for quick installation.

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