Cable Modem

Publication Date: Wednesday Jan 3, 2001

TELECOMMUNICATIONS: AT&T is ready for modem service

Cable operator hopes to win ISP Channel customers

by Don Kazak

AT&T Broadband notified 3,500 ISP Channel customers last week that the system is ready for them to switch to @Home, AT&T's modem service for Internet customers. AT&T also told its Internet customers they will have free Internet service in January.

Given the problems that have plagued ISP customers with outages and poor service over the last year, it isn't certain how many of those customers will stick around.

AT&T may try an incentive to keep customers.

"The price may be less" than the ISP Channel charges now, said Andrew Johnson, AT&T Broadband spokesman. "We have to run some pretty extensive tests and protocols to determine what speeds we can offer (to customers)."

When AT&T took over the Cable Co-op system earlier this year, it discovered the aging cable plant was causing more problems for Internet customers than anticipated.

"We knew there were some issues, but we didn't know the extent," Johnson said. Two of the five main trunks--and the two with the most Internet customers--"were in bad shape," Johnson said.

AT&T is spending about $8,000 a week just to keep the Internet service operating, Johnson added, with technicians dedicated to it full time. All told, the company expects to spend about $750,000 on repairs and maintenance to the Internet service before a new fiber-optic system is built within the next three years.

Part of the problem with the ISP Channel's service was the age of the cable plant, which was built 13 years ago. The other part, Johnson said, was some of the technology ISP was using. The latter is being changed by AT&T.

AT&T also realizes the switch to @Home for ISP customers is not likely to be seamless. "There will be some downtime with customers," Johnson said. "We'll have to do that one-on-one with each customer."

Any improvement over the last six months will likely be welcomed by ISP customers, who ranged from frustrated to outraged at repeated outages in the summer and fall when AT&T took over the former Cable Co-op system. Johnson said that Cable Co-op hadn't provided any regular maintenance of its system in the last two years, which contributed to the outages and downtime.

"The customers are looking to us to end the problems that plagued them," Johnson said.

Letters informing ISP customers of the change-over went out last week. Those customers will be able to sign-up for the @Home service Jan. 15-31. As of Jan. 31, ISP Channel will stop providing service.