Comcast's Excite@Home Conversion Bumpy


Comcast Corp. suffered some snarls during its first week of moving
Excite@Home Corp. customers to a new in-house cable-modem service.

After signing an interim $160 million agreement with the bankrupt Excite@Home
to maintain service through Feb. 28, Philadelphia-based Comcast has started
shifting its 800,000 customers to its own data network. After Feb. 28, the
Excite@Home network will shut down.

Comcast has already moved about 300,000 customers in New Jersey, Michigan,
Maryland and Delaware. Most are Excite@Home customers, but there are about
100,000 Road Runner customers in systems Comcast acquired from MediaOne Group

But as with AT&T Broadband's experiences in early December, it hasn't
been entirely smooth going.

About 7,000 customers in Union, N.J., encountered either spotty service, lack
of access to electronic mail or service outages.

Issues batted around on message boards at -- which monitors
broadband-service issues -- pointed to slow speeds and overwhelmed
customer-service centers.

Comcast executive vice president Dave Watson said the MSO has switched some
300,000 customers to its own service. Given the size of the task, problems are
to be expected.

'We anticipated that there would be some issues when we roll out a new
network like this. In New Jersey, there is a hardware issue that we did
identify. It did result in a service outage for a small pocket of customers,' he

The New Jersey problem centered on a server-hardware problem, and 'once we
identified the outage issue in New Jersey, we jumped on it and we are making
good progress,' Watson said.

'The way I like to look at this is that we are building a new house, and when
you build a house, you typically have a punch list and you go through these
issues, he added. 'We've identified them, worked through them 24-by-7 solving
them. The good news for customers is they have been able to keep their @Home
service throughout.'

Other reported complaints centered on inadequate customer service.

Watson said Comcast did beef up its customer-contact staff, adding, 'The
nature of the New Jersey outage was such that it was a little different than
anything that we had encountered. So we had to do additional diagnostic

Comcast mailed conversion disks to customers in northern New Jersey and
Michigan, but for the remainder of the transition period, it will rely on
Internet-based software downloads, Watson added.

The plan is to continue to convert customers through January and to complete
the transition by the first week of February.

Service to at least some customers in Cherry Hill, N.J., was out Friday
morning. At that point, at least some New Jersey cable-modem customers had not
received transition kits in the mail.

A customer-service representative at Comcast's toll-free hotline said the MSO
was trying to get service back up within 48 hours, and it would take three to
four business days for the kits to arrive.