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Comcast Rolls out Firewall Services

Cable giant and broadband provider Comcast is getting into the bundled services game by rolling out built-in personal firewall software for its high-speed data customers.

In an alliance with security software maker Network Associates , the number one cable provider has begun offering advanced personal firewall services through Network Associates' McAfee anti-virus and security division.

Comcast said its high-speed Internet customers can receive the "McAfee Personal Firewall" service at no additional cost for one year. It gives customers access to the McAfee SecurityCenter, which provides users with real-time updates about alerts and security threats, along with anti-virus scanning and anti-spam features.

Comcast's announcement puts McAfee's personal firewall services into play among broadband companies in recent weeks. AOL's enhanced broadband service, which it just rolled out on March 31st, also includes the McAfee Personal Firewall service bundled into the monthly price for AOL for Broadband users.

The firewall service for Comcast's broadband customers is not expected to be the last bundled firewall offering among ISPs either, as access providers see the addition of extra security features as a way to make the transition to signing up for broadband easier for customers. And it gives them one more way to differentiate their range of offerings, as ISPs of all stripes increasingly offer tiered packages of data services.

Comcast said the McAfee Personal Firewall helps provide protection from a variety of online threats including blocking hackers from unauthorized access through real-time security updates that are managed by McAfee, and watching out for hackers that may try to use an unsuspecting computer as an agent to launch attacks elsewhere.

Since it merged with AT&T Broadband's high-speed data operations at the end of 2002, Comcast has said it expects to be servicing five million broadband subscribers by the end of 2003.

In February, in its first earnings release to reflect the merged cable companies, Comcast said its high-speed modem customers grew by 50 percent over the fourth quarter of 2001, bringing its year-end tally to more than 3.6 million high-speed subscribers among its merged systems. It expects to add another 1.2 million subscribers during the year, which would make it the largest broadband provider with five million, if it hits its year-end target.

According to Jupiter Research (which is owned by the same company that owns this publication) the residential broadband base is about 15.7 million subscribers.