Seen those new Verizon commercials bragging that its phone service is more reliable than cable’s? At least one cable phone exec is smiling. "It’s the classic back-handed compliment," said Charter telephone svp, gm Ted Schremp. "The decision to go negative with advertising is difficult for any marketer to make. Every quarter [the telcos] post quarterly wireline losses… I think that we can take it as a compliment." Charter certainly feels good about its phone service right now. While preliminary 4Q basic and digital sub numbers disappointed some analysts, the MSO’s 106K phone adds beat estimates. Charter will also celebrate its 500Kth VoIP customer this week. "All the product ships rise as the bundle tide rises," Schremp said, predicting video sub numbers will rise as VoIP momentum/bundling continues. Charter’s phone business is on fire, as the MSO increased its phone base from 122K subs/2.9mln homes passed in Jan ’06 to approx 446K subs/6.8mln homes passed in 4Q. Charter’s reported bundled stats are on par with others in the industry: 73% of its phone customers are triple-play subs and 94% are in at least a 2-product bundle. Schremp declined to provide guidance for Charter phone for ’07 but noted "great momentum on phone driving great momentum across the business."