Several Time Warner Cable systems are launching a solutionthat cuts the time and cost of cable-modem installations by auto-configuring subscriberequipment.
The software is part of a broadbandcustomer-relationship-management system developed by BroadJump, an Austin, Texas-basedstart-up created by several veterans of Cisco Systems Inc. and its NetSpeed Inc.digital-subscriber-line product offshoot.
Called "Virtual Truck," the software willconfigure a customer's computer and cable modem -- proprietary or based on the Data OverCable Service Interface Specification for interoperability -- reducing or eliminating theneed for a PC technician.
System operators said such capability simplifies theirproduct and makes it more analogous to simple, easy-to-install Internet services likeAmerica Online Inc.
"We're getting to the point where I can mail out a CDand you're good to go," said Amber Minson, director of broadband services for TimeWarner Cable's Los Angeles system. "The only thing you're going to need is a DOCSIScable modem."
That system is bundling Virtual Truck in a CD-ROM with ademonstration of the Road Runner cable-modem service and qualifier software. And TimeWarner systems in Houston and Austin, Texas, are rolling out Virtual Truck to theircustomers, following lengthy field tests.
Others announcing plans to use BroadJump were SprintCommunications Co., for some DSL markets in its local telephone division, and CincinnatiBell Inc., for its "ZoomTown" DSL service.
BroadJump's solution creates a two-way, real-timecommunication link between the customer's computer and the broadband-service provider'sserver network.
The so-called "Agent" component, installed assoftware on the customer's PC, enables instant messaging between the operator and customercomputers -- for example, to send alerts about system status or outages.
Other functions -- which can be updated dynamically throughplug-ins downloaded from the network -- include simple remote diagnostics of thecustomer's PC, technical support and firewall protection.
At the server end, BroadJump enables the communicationfunctions, 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 billingand customer-care databases.
Time Warner has been testing Virtual Truck for about oneyear in Austin, and it has reduced the need for PC technicians to accompany cableinstallers 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'ssaved me a lot of money," Farabee said. "By using this -- and we've recentlygotten some better pricing for network-interface cards -- I'm able to cut thatinstallation cost in half. I can probably break even at one-half the cost."