RealTime IT News

AT&T Nearly Finished With @Home Migration

With only 100,000 customers left to migrate to their network on Wednesday, AT&T Broadband officials are confident they can meet their self-imposed Friday deadline in the wake of @Home's shutdown of part of its cable Internet service.

In three days, Ma Bell's cable arm has fielded 967,000 telephone calls and 327,000 emails from @Home customers who were likely confused and angered after being shut out of their high-speed Internet service in a negotiating war between AT&T and the broadband Internet service provider's (ISPs) creditors.

"The company's customer care centers have been working in high gear to assist customers in getting on to the new network," said Susan Marshall, AT&T Broadband's senior vice president of advanced broadband services.

In addition to getting 750,000 customers to download and install AT&T Broadband's new service (a process that forces the subscriber to change to a new email address), the company was able to get 12,500 personal home pages and 11,300 personal Web pages up and running. This is accomplished by grabbing the latest Web page information stored on a subscriber's PC.

Friday, Dec. 7, is going to be a busy day for the cable Internet industry; in addition to the many pundits and analysts checking to see that AT&T Broadband has completed its migration, the bankruptcy judge overseeing the Excite@Home proceedings will either accept or refuse a contract with five @Home cable companies to extend @Home's service another three months. After such time, @Home service will end.

How can @Home simply shutdown? Since cable carriers aren't considered a common carrier like the telephone industry, they aren't under any obligation to give warning of a shutdown, as 850,000 AT&T Broadband customers found out the hard way Saturday morning.

The five companies (Cox Communications , Comcast Corp. , Insight Communications , Medicom and Mid Continent Communications) agreed to pay @Home $355 million to keep the service running until Feb. 28, 2002, while they moved their own customers over to their own network.

While on paper the deal looks like a no-brainer -- it's $48 million more than AT&T's bid for the entire @Home company -- the court will have to offset the costs involved. AT&T's bid would have allowed @Home creditors to take most of the $307 million as Ma Bell took over immediate operations, while Cox and Comcast's contracts call for @Home to keep running their service for another three months.

Options for @Home creditors are swiftly dwindling, however. The only known offer for its company, AT&T Broadband's, was withdrawn Tuesday. Rather than lose everything, industry experts expect the judge to rule in favor of the three-month extension.

That's something the cable companies are desperately hoping will happen. Many close to the bankruptcy case didn't expect the judge to rule in favor of cutting service to nearly a million AT&T Broadband customers. The ruling surely made the remaining cable operators on @Home's service jittery -- the five cable companies who ponied up the $355 million are still weeks away from getting their own networks ready for customers.

A shutdown would be an unmitigated disaster for them -- AT&T had a system in place when @Home shut them down, keeping customers in the dark for a relatively short period. The service outages for customers at the other cable companies would be weeks longer.