Broadband Week Briefs


Comcast, Office Depot Expand Retail Ties

Philadelphia—Comcast Corp.'s cable unit is expanding its retail relationship with Office Depot, offering high-speed Internet services in 230 stores nationwide, up from the original 100 locations.

The stores will offer consumers a point-of-sale presence to check the availability of modem service, plus the ability to purchase a modem and a free self-installation kit. Comcast is offering a $45 rebate for modem purchases through the store.

SupportSoft Inks Pacts With Cox, Comcast

Redwood City, Calif.—Support Soft Inc. signed deals with Cox Communications Inc. and Comcast Corp. to sell more high-speed data software products to those operators' existing customers.

Cox will deploy SupportSoft's Knowledge Center Suite, which allows the MSO's customer-service representatives and technicians to see and resolve problems on the network in real time. The suite streamlines knowledge management for the MSO's 25,000 employees in 25 states.

Comcast is rolling out SupportSoft's Live Assist solution, which allows for online chat and Web push functionality. The MSO averages more than 3,000 chat sessions each day, as CSRs help consumers work through problems. Live Assist also helps customers solve problems themselves through a Web-based interface.

"Our customers expect quick answers to their broadband service questions and issues," said Comcast vice president of operations and technical support Mitch Bowling said in a statement. "Many prefer to communicate with a customer service rep via live online chat versus the telephone or other forms of service delivery."

Separately, Cox Business Services added its 100,000 commercial customer, the State-Wide Multiple Listing Service in Warwick, R.I.

Verizon Posts Its Strongest DSL Quarter in Two Years

New York —Verizon Communications Inc. reported its best digital subscriber line quarter in nearly two years, adding 185,000 data subscribers in the third quarter.

Like other regional Bell operating companies, Verizon has been aggressively pricing DSL to compete with cable. The numbers are a jump from last year's 155,000 third-quarter additions, and up sequentially from second quarter's 101,000. The telco counts 2.1 million DSL subscribers.

Overall, the three largest telephone companies (Verizon, SBC Communications Inc. and BellSouth Corp.) added 560,000 DSL subscribers in the quarter, compared to 502,000 a year ago and 508,000 in the second quarter of 2003.

BigBand Broadens Its Ad-Insertion Capabilities

Redwood City, Calif.—BigBand Networks Inc. expanded its digital ad-insertion capabilities to include Internet-protocol connectivity from multiple local or remotely networked advertisement servers to the BigBand ad splicing gateway on its broadband multimedia service router.

BigBand also said it will be able to splice HD ads into HD programming, and to send ads to specific geographical zones via Gigabit Ethernet transport.

The ad-splicing gateway allows operators to centralize ad insertion from the headend, yet splice ads for different zones in cable systems using GigE transport.

Ucentric Bows MusicHome-Net Software

Maynard, Mass.—Ucentric Systems is releasing its whole home music 1.0 software product, which allows consumers to share audio files across a home network.

The application can be integrated into set-top boxes and consumer electronic devices. Users can access their music libraries from their PCs and play them through TV entertainment centers hooked up to stereo equipment.

"We put them in a user friendly television interface," Ucentric CEO Michael Collette said. "That's great for all the people who have MP3s on their PCs. It's a great way to have a very easy whole home solution."

Real Net Revenues Rise 14% in Q3

Seattle—Real Networks Inc. posted revenue of $51.8 million in third quarter 2003, a 14% increase over last year, helped by a 250,000-subscriber increase to its Rhapsody music service.

The gains helped the online content provider and software maker to reduce its quarterly net loss to $3.7 million, compared to $35.4 million in the year earlier period.

Real said the 250,000 subscribers represented a 46% increase over the previous quarter, and gave the company 1.15 million paying subscribers. Charter Communications Inc., Cablevision Systems Corp. and Time Warner Cable's Road Runner are all Rhapsody affiliates.