Insight Girds for @Home Transition


After watching other Excite@Home affiliates make the switch, Insight Communications Co. is preparing to convert high-speed cable-modem customers over to its own new service.

Insight, which has about 75,000 Excite@Home customers, will start its transition in early to mid-February. Plans are to have all customers switched over before Feb. 28, the last day Excite@Home's network will be lit.

Dubbed InsightBB, the service will provide a basic home page and new e-mail addresses combining customers' old user name, plus the domain name. Customers will be directed to a Web site where they can download software that will reconfigure their computers; disks will be made available to those who encounter trouble. AT&T Corp. will provide the backbone data transport.

Although the migration comes later than other @Home affiliates, Insight has gained from watching AT&T Broadband, Comcast Corp. and Cox Communications Inc. make the switch, said Insight president and CEO Michael Willner. Engineers working on Insight's backbone connectivity had already lived through AT&T Broadband's conversion, so "I think they learned some lessons along the way that I think we are going to benefit from," he said.

The MSO also has the advantage of a relatively compact service area covering Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana.

"The one great advantage we had is our geography — we are so concentrated in [those] states that we only need two or three points of presence back into the network," Willner said. "So it was really relatively easy for us to accomplish what we had to do here."

One thing that won't be changing in the process is the speed or the price. Insight has already pledged to customers it won't raise cable-modem rates in 2002, and it also has no plan to cap downstream data rates.

"We don't have any plans to change the policies right now," Willner said. "We monitor that. We make sure that people aren't misusing the product in accordance with their agreement — not setting up servers. But we don't have any specific plans to monitor the speed."

Willner said the transition cost — aside from the $10 million it is paying Excite@Home to stay on the network through Feb. 28 — will be in "the millions of dollars." But as with others, he said the increased revenue from operating the service without @Home will eventually produce a return on the investment.

"We've done everything we could do, including paying $6 million to @Home to stay on the network for three months — that's $6 million above what we would have paid them anyway," he said. "We're absolutely determined to make this as seamless as possible, as evidenced by the willingness to reach into our pocket and pay that ransom."