RealTime IT News

Juno Broadband Enters Comcast Country

Juno, a division of popular dial-up Internet service provider (ISP) United Online is going high-speed in two U.S. cities Thursday, the first step in the company's strategy to provide cable modem service throughout Comcast Corp.'s network.

No timetable has been announced for Juno expansion into other Comcast markets, as this agreement is merely a "template" for future roll outs, according to Jenni Moyer, a Comcast spokesperson. The cable company has agreements with other national ISPs, she added, notably the EarthLink field trials in Philadelphia. Juno is also conducting field tests in the Philadelphia area.

Juno's basic cable Internet service (which comes with free dial-up service), now available in Indianapolis and Nashville, costs $39.95 a month, if you already have a cable modem. If not, the ISP will charge $5 a month to rent the equipment. There is also a $49.95 activation fee for new users.

Mark Goldston, United Online chairman, president and chief executive officer, said Juno customers have a habit of upgrading their service within the company, and expects the same with its new high-speed offering.

"Millions of Internet users have made the switch to our free and value-priced Internet services because of the quality of the dial-up services we offer," he said. "We are pleased to now be offering residents of Indianapolis and Nashville high-quality broadband service over the Comcast cable system."

Juno Broadband also offers an enhanced package for users at $44.90 and includes its Juno Platinum service, which is the ISP's dial-up service without banner ads.

The basic price is comparable to Comcast cable Internet, which runs $44 ($39.95 plus $5 monthly modem rental) per month in Indianapolis, though the hope by many consumers is the competition will drive prices down in the future.

Juno's dial up offering is an added bonus, and something existing Comcast cable customers don't have access to -- a backup in case the cable network goes down and a "roaming" account for business travelers.

"A lot of people who have broadband travel have to have a dial up back up," a United Online spokesperson said.

The open-access deal, announced nearly three months ago, is proof positive the major cable operators are taking steps to open up their networks, albeit at a slow rate.

AOL Time Warner, forced to open its cable network as part of its merger agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) last year, has been adding ISPs to its networks at a more steady and rapid pace.

Cable Internet service prices have been steadily increasing, from an average price of $43.21 to $44.95 -- a 4 percent increase, according to research firm ARS. Experts predict that the competition provided by ISPs on the cable operators network will eventually drive down monthly rates, and make the transition from dial up more palatable.

Mark Kersey, broadband analyst at ARS, said that broadband pricing as a whole has increased because of a dearth of competition.

"Ninety-one percent of all broadband service providers that have been in business since the beginning of 2001 have raised their rates since that time, indicating that industry consolidation that ripped through the broadband market last year has left broadband consumers with fewer choices and, ultimately, higher monthly prices," he said. "We expect that this trend of increasing prices will hamper the widespread adoption of broadband services and that the vast majority of users will continue to access the Internet via dial-up connections for the foreseeable future."