Hang onto your mouse. The cable television industry is gearing up for another round of launches of high-speed Internet access in the next month, just in time for the holidays.
Users who have tried the service so far like the high-speed and reliability of the network. But some are balking at the price, typically $45 a month, or more than double the going $19.95 a month rate from most ISPs. They also say the content could use more depth.
Next month, @Home is expected to offer the service in Hartford, Connecticut, followed by Arlington Heights, Illinois.
Other launches set for the year's end include Baltimore, Orange County and early next year, West-Central Florida. @Home's Web site recently has been updated to include a list of more than a dozen cities surrounding Baltimore and Sarasota, Florida, more evidence that the long-delayed launch is gaining momentum.
In addition, sources said, the venture is gearing up to launch a companion service, @Work, by December. It will focus on high-speed Internet access in the workplace. The company is working hard to line up corporate customers for the launch.
The service has been mum about the number of subscribers in Fremont and Sunnyvale, both in California, where it launched earlier this fall. But estimates run up to more than 100.
What do users think? "It's great. I love the high speed and reliability of the connections," said Karen Aurielio, a customer in Fremont.
Aurielio was less enthusiastic about some of the content that is available, calling it "OK."
@Home is not alone in upcoming rollouts. Cox plans to launch its own Net access service in Phoenix by year's end, according to Thomas Nagel, director of Data Services for Cox.
Time Warner plans to offer its version, dubbed Road Runner, in San Diego and Portland, Maine, in the first quarter of next year.
The industry faces stiff competition, both from the ISPs and phone companies. They too are experimenting with faster Net connectivity with ISDN and other digital lines, as well as network switches that are ready for 56-kbps modems.