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11/30/2010 10:42:09 AM
FiberSlasher Member #: 4750 Registered: 1996-2001
Posted: 529 View all posts by FiberSlasher
Occupation: Retired Location: NY
Your own cable guy: $180

http://www.jsonline.com/business/111018239.html

Your own cable guy: $180

Time Warner Cable Inc. is launching a service that includes something many of us would want: No more waiting for the cable guy.

Customers who pay about $180 a month for the new "Signature Home" package will get specific times for service appointments instead of a three-hour window for when to expect the service technician.

They also will have access to a personal service adviser 24 hours a day and to Time Warner's most experienced technicians.

Signature Home is coming to the Milwaukee area in early December, Time Warner officials said Monday.

As well as higher-end service, the premium package includes about 200 television channels, two whole-home digital video recorders, high-speed Internet, a wireless home network and digital telephone service.

The Internet speed of 15 megabits per second will more than triple to 50 megabits per second when wideband Internet becomes available in early 2011 - making it one of the fastest broadband connections in Wisconsin.

The whole-home recorders will record up to four high-definition television shows at once, for up to 150 hours of HD content or 400 hours of standard video.

There are a bunch of other features, too, including "look back," where you can go back three days in time on your TV menu and watch shows you missed.

With "start over," you can restart shows from the beginning, without setting the digital video recorder.

The digital phone service includes Caller ID on your computer and television to help control interruptions and ignore telemarketers.

Service technicians will set up your wireless home network and connect up to 13 devices, including televisions, computers, gaming consoles and mobile phones.

"It's like a concierge service," said Stacy Zaja, a Time Warner spokeswoman.

The company has tested Signature Home in Charlotte, N.C., and will roll it out nationally in early 2011.

It also has tested a lower-priced service, called "TV Essentials," in New York City for $39.99.

What's the market for the high-end service, where someone will come to your house and set up a computer network and solve technical issues?

"Frankly, these are people with more money than time," said Kurt Scherf, vice president and principal with Park Associates, a Dallas research firm that specializes in telecommunications.

"They don't want to wait for the cable guy," Scherf said. "Their frustration is that three-hour window of when the technician will show up, especially when he arrives in the last 15 minutes."

Signature Home's appointment scheduling may rub some other cable customers the wrong way as they wait for the cable guy. Yet cable companies, like the airlines, have found ways to charge for many things.

"I can pay more to get first-class seats on a plane. I can pay more to get better seats at Miller Park, and I can pay a lot more to have waiter service in a sky box," said Barry Orton, a telecommunications professor at University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The personal adviser service also is a different angle to sell the premium package.

"Some people have enormous frustration in calling the cable company and not getting a human being on the phone or someone who will stay on the phone and fix their problem," Orton said.

Signature Home comes as the number of people who pay for TV has fallen for the first time, according to research firm SNL Kagan.

The total decline was small - 335,000 homes out of 100 million, a mere 0.35% between the first and third quarters of this year, The Wall Street Journal noted.

But a small slice of U.S. households have dropped cable service in favor of watching television and movies over the Internet.

"It's not an iceberg the size of Manhattan. It's an ice cube right now. But wait a few years," Scherf said.

Overall, cable television was very resilient during the recession.

"People who pay the extra money for things like sports channels don't drop them," Orton said.

"They may drop a movie channel for a while, or try to get a better deal through a satellite dish, but generally they're staying with cable."

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