RealTime IT News

@Home Migration Cuts Into Comcast Pocketbook, 2002 Goals

Comcast Corp. outlined its fourth quarter 2001 revenues Wednesday, announcing revenues of $2.8 billion and a net loss of $321 million, mainly attributable to the cable company's efforts to migrate its @Home customers

The No. 3 cable network in the U.S., behind AT&T Broadband and AOL Time Warner , spent much of the quarter (and much of its money) bringing Comcast@Home customers back to the fold after the broadband ISP filed for bankruptcy and announced its imminent shutdown.

Officials tally the cost of upgrading the network and starting the process of migrating nearly 950,000 customers at $140 million, almost half of the fourth quarter's reported losses. Further costs will likely show up in the first quarter of 2002, as Comcast promised @Home bondholders it would pay $160 million in three payments to keep the network running until the end of February.

But the first quarter will see more revenues for Comcast, now that its subscribers are fully under its control. As part of its deal with @Home, before the ISP's dissolution, a portion of every month's subscriber bill went to the @Home coffers for operational upkeep.

Comcast added 155,400 cable Internet customers in the fourth quarter, for a grand total of 948,100, to end the year.

The company plans to garner more high-speed customers with a $1.3 billion investment in the network to get more cities "digitized," which in reality is a step back. The capital investment is down $550 million from earlier statements from officials.

That's likely due to its projected 2002 goals for its Internet arm. Officials predicted Internet growth would be flat, with somewhere between 400,000-500,000 customers for the year.

For the answer to that, you need to look at Comcast's digital cable numbers. Despite having 75 percent of its network upgraded to provide digital services (digital cable and Internet access), only nine percent have signed up for the pricey service.

Brian Roberts, Comcast president, expects new services to spur interest in cable Internet in 2002, with the rollout of applications that make the most of broadband speeds.

"We continued to demonstrate the power of upgraded systems in delivering digital and broadband services to consumers," he said. "We have substantially completed the transition of high-speed Internet customers to our new network. We are building a more robust network to deliver an even better service to our customers, including remote e-mail, multiple e-mail addresses, web storage and enhanced high-speed options."

Comcast is also likely looking for a boost in Internet numbers with its winning $72 billion bid in December 2001 for AT&T Broadband. The deal still has a long way to go, needing both shareholder and likely Federal Communications Commission and Federal Trade Commission approval.

The combined entity would be called AT&T Comcast Corp. and have a combined 2.2 million high-speed cable Internet subscribers, making it the largest cable ISP in the U.S.