Excite@Home expects its cable operator partner Comcast to offer the software package--which has been in development for more than a year--for $29.95 at Circuit City and CompUSA stores by the end of October. The company's other cable partners, such as AT&T and Cox Communications, will offer the installation program later.
The package, dubbed the QuickStart Kit, is intended to speed the installation process for new customers. Many consumers complain about lengthy waiting periods and cumbersome installations that are common with high-speed, or "broadband," Internet technologies such as cable modems and digital subscriber lines (DSL).
In the past, a cable or phone technician had to install the modem and software in addition to provisioning the line and activating the connection. The time involved and limited number of installation technicians led to long waiting lists and irritated consumers eager to access the Internet at speeds much faster than dial-up modems allow.
But service providers such as Excite@Home and Road Runner, as well as technology companies Cisco Systems and BroadJump, are working to eliminate the need for a technician. Self-installation kits are expected to save the cable operators money and provide the companies with an entrance into retail stores, which could be particularly effective around the upcoming, all-important holiday shopping season.
Executives believe Excite@Home's kit, which includes CD-ROM software for both PCs and Macintoshes, will allow consumers to install the service within 15 minutes to an hour.
"Most consumers could do it in about a half-hour," said Richard Holden, senior director of product development for Excite@Home. "What we've done is taken the need for a technician out of the process in most cases."
Consumers must purchase a modem in conjunction with the new QuickStart kit, which costs about $200, and call their cable provider to present their credit card information and activate service. Excite@Home also is testing software that would enable consumers to activate service online, eliminating the need for a phone call, Holden said.
The @Home cable modem service is not available in all areas of the country.
Excite@Home is eager to sign up customers as quickly as possible because the broadband market is growing quickly and competition is on the rise. This summer the company passed the 2 million subscriber mark but has committed to reaching 3 million by the end of the year, 6 million in 2001 and 10 million customers by 2002.
The QuickStart kit also includes new software and installation auditing tools for cable operators.