Verizon Stocks Up Service Packages

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Verizon Communications Inc. is ramping up the support services it markets to consumers, offering repair help for home electronics and services at rates ranging from $4.99 a month to $249.99 for premium, onsite support.

The Expert Care service plans will provide 24/7 help, at levels to be selected by the consumers, for computer software and hardware problems as well as repair or replacement coverage for computers, TVs and telephone equipment.

The support suite addresses so-called "out of scope" help, where a consumer calls a telephone or video vendor to report an operational problem that doesn't actually involve the service the consumer is buying from that vendor. Some companies are recognizing business opportunities in these calls, both to sell service subscriptions or to improve customer satisfaction.

In addition to Verizon, providers including Cox Communications Inc., Qwest Communications International and Embarq are selling support subscriptions. Even smaller providers, such as satellite Internet service provider Wild Blue, are providing remote support with the help of vendor Peak8 Solutions.

Verizon has announced three types of service plans:

-- A device protection service, which provides repair or replacement of multiple computers, TVs and telephones, regardless of the age of the appliance. The plan price ranges from $4.99 to $19.99 a month, dependant on the equipment. These plans also include repair or replacement of Remote controls, keyboards, monitors, mice and backup batteries for the FiOS video service.

-- Premium technical support, priced at $14.99 a month for a 10-month subscription. This includes telephone and online support for virus and spyware detection and removal; virtual private networking problems, help with firewalls, problem with computer operating systems, gaming connectivity problems and other software and hardware help.

-- Premium onsite support will be provided in partnership with Circuit City's firedog repair service. For $99.99 to $249.99, subscribers will get home visits to execute operating system installations to complete PC and home network installations.

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