is the latest national broadband provider to jump
on the home networking bandwagon, announcing free support and rebate on a
bundled MSN-Microsoft Broadband Networking Wireless base station service,
officials announced Wednesday.
The deal doesn’t become official until the release of MSN 8, the latest
version of Microsoft’s Internet service, which is expected to roll out
sometime in October or November.
Whether home networkers will really benefit from the deal depends mainly on
whether they buy a Microsoft wireless hub or not, since other hardware
manufacturer hubs aren’t supported. Customers will need to continue
calling their equipment maker for support issues.
The support costs for the digital subscriber line (DSL)-based service are
incorporated into the ISPs monthly bill, which range between $39.95 and
$49.95. The monthly service isn’t expected to increase with the launch of
MSN 8. Officials at press time were unsure whether the free support
applies to current MSN users with a Microsoft base station.
Parul Shah, a MSN product manager, said the benefits are evident for MSN
users who use Microsoft gear.
“One of the benefits of what we’re offering is integrated support,” she
said. “If you’re a DSL customer, you will often call EarthLink or another
provider because you are having a problem setting up your home network and
they’ll say, ‘oh, that’s not us, go call NetGear or Linksys, or whoever
your hardware provider is.’ ”
The free support — albeit only with Microsoft products — is a refreshing
attitude compared to many of the other broadband providers out there who
charge a monthly fee to support home networking.
Of the major broadband providers in the U.S. who offer a home networking
package, only SBC/Yahoo! DSL refrains from adding a charge to the
service. BellSouth charges $10 a month, while EarthLink DSL users are
charged $9.99 a month. AT&T Broadband, one of the few cable companies who
even offer the service, charges $4.95 for every additional computer
networked to the router.
Microsoft’s base station currently runs for $159 on its Web site, though
MSN is running a promotional $30 rebate promotion over the Christmas
holiday to make the pricing a little more appealing.
That price still puts it ahead of the competition: you can find a Linksys
EtherFast Cable/DSL router for $119 or a D-Link Airplus for $112 on many
e-commerce sites. Of course, nothing can stop an MSN user from buying
their own router and using it with their MSN service, but officials are
betting the all-in-one support will convince many to opt with the MSN
8/Microsoft base station service and support.