Buried amid the bad news of declining venture capital investments in Internet communications start-ups is one positive trend: the number of early-stage investments in this segment rose last quarter.Altogether, U.S. venture firms invested $91.6 million in 16 Internet communications start-ups during the second quarter of 2004. This represents the lowest level of investment in this segment of the network industry in seven years.This data is from the quarterly MoneyTree Survey, which is compiled by PricewaterhouseCoopers, Thomson Venture Economics and the National Venture Capital Association.The good news, however, is that four of the Internet communications deals that closed last quarter were early-stage investments. Indeed, the investments last quarter were evenly split with four early-stage, four expansion and four later-stage deals.In contrast, of the 18 investments in Internet communications start-ups that closed during the first quarter of 2004, only one was an early-stage investment. During that quarter, 12 deals were expansion-stage investments and five were later-stage investments."There is a slight shift in this particular quarter to some early-stage companies, which would bode well for this segment in the future when these companies come back for more money," says Kirk Walden, national director of venture capital research at PricewaterhouseCoopers.The four early-stage investments made last quarter were:* $7.5 million invested in Ruckus Network, formerly known as College Entertainment Network. This Boston start-up offers digital music and movie services for colleges and universities.* $4 million invested in Mobixell Networks of New York, which provides systems to wireless ISPs for handling mobile, multimedia communications.* $2.75 million invested in Ping Identity, also known as PingID. This Denver start-up offers identity management software and networks.* $2.1 million invested in Covelight Systems, formerly known as Xactional. This Cary, N.C. start-up provides monitoring systems for Web applications security.