After a little more than 3 years in the digital phone business, Comcast has secured more than 5mln subs with messaging that focuses on cost savings and a service that’s comparable to traditional phone. "We feel that now that we’re at 5mln customers, we’ll try to break out of that," Cathy Avgiris, svp/gm, Comcast Voice Service, said in an interview with Cfax. "We’ll continue to have that savings message, but it’s time to do some new development on the phone product." First up is "Universal Caller ID." As with Time Warner Cable and Cablevision, phone subs with cable service will get caller ID on their TV screens. But Comcast’s offering goes a step further, with caller ID alerts appearing on the computer as well. The service is in a limited trial now in a Philly suburb, with Comcast planning to deploy it to about three-fourths of its footprint in the summer and fall, Avgiris said, so customers can get "the flexibility to get messages and communications wherever they are." She said Comcast will be the 1st company to deploy such a feature nationally. Also on tap is a service being referred to as "Enhanced Cordless Phone," which will let customers read emails on a cordless phone with a color screen and Web interface. Other functions include search—so you can find a restaurant using the phone’s screen instead of turning to the Yellow Pages —and the ability to prioritize the voicemails (ie, the screen will display everyone who left a message, and you can choose who to listen to first). Right now, the phones (which Avgiris says should be available at retail) have a traditional-looking keypad but may evolve over time to look more like a BlackBerry with a full keyboard. "The next phase of that is to introduce the ability to do text messaging," she said, referring to a survey that found 50% of consumers make wireless calls from within their homes. Of course, as Comcast’s Clearwire-Sprint investment suggests, "we’re focusing on owning the best consumer experience in the home, and then taking it outside the home as the time comes," Avgiris said. The enhanced cordless device is in certification, with possible introduction in the late fall, she said. Interestingly, the enhanced cordless phone service helps solve phone-related power outage problems. The EMTA is embedded into the cordless phone’s base station. Because the modem has battery back-up power, the phone gets the same back-up power source and will work if it’s charged. Comcast COO Steve Burke alluded to the MSO’s phone expansion during the company’s 1Q earnings call, promising "exciting new product enhancements" this year. One development already underway is self-installs for digital voice. Avgiris said there have already been 3K and called the success rate "very high."

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Maine A la Carte Case Dies

Maine is no longer fighting to enact a law that would force cable operators to make video channels (and individual programs) available to consumers on an a la carte basis. The law was challenged by Comcast

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