Comcast Aims to Jazz Up Home Phone Service

By reports, and wire | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, August 26, 2008 | Go to article overview

Comcast Aims to Jazz Up Home Phone Service


reports, and wire, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


Having swiped millions of customers from telephone companies, Comcast Corp. says it plans to update the boring-as-dirt home phone.

Comcast's first enhancement to its phone service -- which is being tested in the Philadelphia area -- pops the number of an incoming call onto PCs and TVs. It will be offered free to Comcast phone customers beginning later this year and should reach the Pittsburgh area next year.

So behold couch potatoes, you no longer have to leap from comfy seats to check who's ringing.

And for those glued to the latest "Lost" episode, or other favorite show, Comcast has programmed the TV remote with an I-Don't- Want-To-Talk-With-You-Now button. This sends a caller to voicemail with a click.

Comcast calls its new service Universal Caller ID. In reality, it's not exactly a cutting-edge concept. Satellite TV services DirecTV and Dish Network have had on-TV-screen caller ID for years at no extra charge. Verizon demonstrated in 2001 that it could display the number of an incoming call onto a PC screen. The Verizon service costs $5 a month.

The cable company's strategic zag toward landline phones, which some view as a dying business, comes as dazzling wireless products such as the iPhone excite consumers.

For the most part, Comcast has watched the wireless boom from the sidelines.

And now Western Pennsylvania's biggest cable company, with 24 million pay-TV customers nationwide, says it can build revenue and customer loyalty by seamlessly linking a home's TV, phone and PC.

"We want to own the customer experience on the phone," Catherine Avgiris, who runs Comcast's phone business of 5.6 million landline customers, said. "You have to continue to drive value into the base product and then find those premium products that customers are willing to pay extra for."

Introduced in June 2005 in the Boston area, Comcast Digital Voice could be the third-largest landline phone provider in the nation by early 2009, Avgiris said. …

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