Comcast Discount Pitch Woos DSL Users

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The highly targeted satellite-dish buyback campaigns used by Comcast Corp. and others are migrating to high-speed data.

Comcast quietly confirmed last week that it has started to send e-mails to select digital subscriber line customers in its service territories in California, Illinois and Maryland with this offer: Switch to Comcast cable-modem service for $19.95 a month for an entire year.

Subscribers who switch don't have to take Comcast's video service.

After the year is over, pricing reverts to the traditional $42.95 per month for video subscribers or $57.95 a month for non-video customers.

Comcast executives declined to comment on how they obtained the e-mail names, or on how many DSL subscribers received the offer. "It's a limited, targeted promotion," a spokesman said.

Cable companies are under pressure from Wall Street to maintain high-speed-data sales growth in the face of DSL providers who've cut prices.

Many regional Bell operating companies have introductory DSL offers for less than $30 per month. MSOs have responded by increasing their download capacity.

The DSL discounts didn't appear to hurt cable-modem growth in the quarter that ended Sept 30. Cable-modem and DSL providers added more than 2 million high-speed customers in the third quarter, a near 25% increase over the second quarter, to reach 22.7 million U.S. homes, according to a Leichtman Research Group study.

Cable operators added 1.25 million subscribers in the quarter, maintaining their 64% overall market share, versus DSL's 789,000 additions. LRG found that the top 10 cable MSOs have made high-speed available to 88% of their homes, versus close to 70% for the primary DSL providers.

"High-speed Internet growth in the third quarter of 2003 successfully rebounded from the previous quarter's results," LRG president Bruce Leichtman said in a statement. But he said much of the growth came from major broadband providers aggressively discounting prices.

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