RealTime IT News

Cable ISPs Race Heats Up

The race between cable Internet service providers Road Runner and Excite@Home got a little more interesting on Wednesday with both companies touting their milestone achievements.

On the heels of this morning's announcement by Road Runner it had reached one million customers, Excite@Home trumped that with its announcement it had reached two million subscribers.

Both are running in a fairly open field right now, as the two services are one of the few practicing cable ISPs in the U.S. market, which puts them in an enviable position. As the other ISPs scramble to catch up, the two will have gobbled up a majority of the market.

Both cable ISPs have experienced a tremendous surge in subscribers this year, but Excite@Home has pulled head-and-shoulders ahead of Road Runner and expects to stay there.

Vice Hancock, Excite@Home public relations manager of broadband products, said his company has seen the potential growth possible with cable Internet.

"It's not surprising there are so many people signing up for broadband services," Hancock said. "Broadband is just now catching on and people are rushing to sign up for our services."

In January, Hancock said, the company predicted to investors it would reach three million customers by the end of the year. At 1,150,000 subscribers, when the prediction was made, it seemed like a tall order. But surpassing the two million mark, in addition to making the ISP the sixth largest in the U.S., puts them on pace for three million if the trend continues.

George Bell, Excite@Home chairman and chief executive officer, said it's a combination of demand and content offering that makes cable Internet so attractive.

"Clearly consumers want a high-speed, always-on Internet connection through which to experience content and communications service in our optimized environment," Bell said. "Our cable partners have been instrumental in helping us to achieve this milestone through their efforts at system upgrades and customer installations. Subscriber numbers will continue to explode as people increasingly realize the benefits of a fast, always-on connection couple with rich, personalized content."

Excite@Home is owned by AT&T Corp., which also has part ownership in Road Runner through its ownership of Media One.

Road Runner is looking to keep the one million customers it has gathered with expanded content to its service. Wednesday's announcement comes on the heels of its expanded commitment with theglobe.com portal site to provide "community" resources for people to chat and play games online for another year.

As Internet connectivity becomes more and more ubiquitous, service providers are looking to ways to keep the customers it already has subscribed to its service. Compelling content, in addition to customer support, is one of the major reasons for subscriber happiness with a provider, reports show.

Bill Gordon, Road Runner president, said the first million is a good milestone but only the first of many milestones, and content is the key to that success.

"It is truly exciting to see Road Runner reach this tremendous milestone," Gordon said. "It is a testament to the talent and commitment of every employee who has contributed to the growth and development of Road Runner's world-class high-speed network, compelling content offerings and best-in-class customer care. It is also an example of our affiliates' commitment to blazing a broadband trail in markets across the nation. The pride we feel in achieving this goal is matched only by our drive to continue to deliver the