Several Time Warner Cable systems are launching a solution
that cuts the time and cost of cable-modem installations by auto-configuring subscriber
The software is part of a broadband
customer-relationship-management system developed by BroadJump, an Austin, Texas-based
start-up created by several veterans of Cisco Systems Inc. and its NetSpeed Inc.
digital-subscriber-line product offshoot.
Called "Virtual Truck," the software will
configure a customer's computer and cable modem -- proprietary or based on the Data Over
Cable Service Interface Specification for interoperability -- reducing or eliminating the
need for a PC technician.
System operators said such capability simplifies their
product and makes it more analogous to simple, easy-to-install Internet services like
America Online Inc.
"We're getting to the point where I can mail out a CD
and you're good to go," said Amber Minson, director of broadband services for Time
Warner Cable's Los Angeles system. "The only thing you're going to need is a DOCSIS
That system is bundling Virtual Truck in a CD-ROM with a
demonstration of the Road Runner cable-modem service and qualifier software. And Time
Warner systems in Houston and Austin, Texas, are rolling out Virtual Truck to their
customers, following lengthy field tests.
Others announcing plans to use BroadJump were Sprint
Communications Co., for some DSL markets in its local telephone division, and Cincinnati
Bell Inc., for its "ZoomTown" DSL service.
BroadJump's solution creates a two-way, real-time
communication link between the customer's computer and the broadband-service provider's
The so-called "Agent" component, installed as
software on the customer's PC, enables instant messaging between the operator and customer
computers -- for example, to send alerts about system status or outages.
Other functions -- which can be updated dynamically through
plug-ins downloaded from the network -- include simple remote diagnostics of the
customer's PC, technical support and firewall protection.
At the server end, BroadJump enables the communication
functions, plus features that manage and provision the customer's connection and account.
The software integrates with existing back-office systems such as an operator's billing
and customer-care databases.
Time Warner has been testing Virtual Truck for about one
year in Austin, and it has reduced the need for PC technicians to accompany cable
installers on cable-modem truck rolls to once every 200 installs, said Steve Farabee,
director of digital-online services for Time Warner Cable-Austin.
"It's made installation of Road Runner easier. It's
saved me a lot of money," Farabee said. "By using this -- and we've recently
gotten some better pricing for network-interface cards -- I'm able to cut that
installation cost in half. I can probably break even at one-half the cost."