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Road Runner touts subscription jump, executive hiring

The No. 2 cable modem service will announce tomorrow a 28 percent increase in its subscriber base and the hiring of a chief technical officer, a former Compaq exec.

    Road Runner, the nation's No. 2 cable modem service, will announce tomorrow a 28 percent increase in its subscriber base and the hiring of a chief technical officer.

    The Net-over-cable company now claims 320,000 subscribers, up from 250,000 customers last quarter. Road Runner still trails Excite@Home, however, which had 450,000 customers at the end of March and currently has more than 600,000 customers, according to sources.

    Road Runner also has hired Trey Smith as its senior vice president of engineering and technology, according to the company. Smith, formerly vice president for advanced consumer products at Compaq, served as the PC maker's liaison on Road Runner's technology committee.

    Smith's hire comes on the heels of the company's recent expansion of its senior management team--although Road Runner is still without a permanent chief executive. The company has been conducting an executive search for months.

    The addition of Smith, a former chief technology officer for Compaq, further links Road Runner with its partners. The cable modem service is a joint venture between cable operators Time Warner, MediaOne Group, PC industry heavyweights Microsoft and Compaq, and Advance/Newhouse.

    But Smith's hire also could signal Road Runner's willingness to eventually enter the interactive television market.

    Compaq's advanced consumer products unit has considered developing set-top boxes for some time, according to sources. Meanwhile, Road Runner competitor Excite@Home is developing an interactive TV version of its service that is expected to be commercially available later this year or in early 2000.

    News.com's Michael Kannellos contributed to this report.