This might be the year the technologically timid have been waiting for. Broadband providers are not only encouraging customers to share connections over a home network, but some firms will even install and manage home networks for customers who would rather pay and play than get tangled up in wires.
Although several companies, such as Verizon, EarthLink, and SBC Yahoo, are selling home networking packages, Comcast seems to be the first to push vendor installation. The cost of Comcast’s networking cable modem service is $10 to install for up to five PCs and includes service for up to seven e-mail addresses. Monthly costs start at $19.99 per month for the first six months then increase to between $95 and $200 per month. The difference in these costs presumably cover support because you’re not getting “more connection.” You could always network as many computers as you liked on a broadband connection through Windows DHCP with a router/hub that has enough ports. You can choose to either lease the wireless router and first wireless card from Comcast for a total of $5 per month, or purchase a router for $199 and a wireless card for each PC for $50 each. The installation fees are $199.99 for two computers, $249.99 for three, $299.99 for four, and $299.99 for five. It’s worth it if you’d rather chew glass than troubleshoot a network.
On the DSL side, SBC Yahoo prefers to ship routers to do-it-yourselfers at a deep discount over retail if customers sign on for a one-year commitment. But you can get vendor installation from SBC (it’s in the fine print) for $200. Most major broadband companies now have network packages but no network installation offerings yet.
High-speed providers embracing home networks is no surprise to Charles Golvin, principal analyst for Forrester Research. “In the past, the people with home networks were either geeks or friends of geeks, and 83% [either] installed it by themselves or [had it installed] by their friends,” says Golvin. Now everyone wants to have a home network, but not everyone is a geek. “Lets imagine that you would like to walk around connected to the Internet via your laptop,” says Golvin. “You go to Best Buy, you’re fortunate enough to set it up correctly, and something dies. What you’re going to notice is you’re no longer connected to the Internet. The average Joe is going to call Comcast customer support.” What happens then, he says, is you’ll discover you have a router that Comcast doesn’t support. “If [a high-speed internet provider] can supply the router, they’ll know how to support it. Or they can remotely manage it, as is the case with some of the newer models, “says Golvin.” They can support you, no time is wasted, and everybody is happy.”