Cable Company Branches into Internet Service

Cable is not just for TV anymore. Starting Wednesday, Mar 13, 2002, it'll also stand for internet service - fast - internet service. 

Charter Communications is launching it's Pipeline high-speed cable modem service in Southeast Missouri.  There will be lots of questions, below are some answers.
   
To begin with, hang on for a fast ride.  Traditional dial-up phone modem access to the internet -- the only game in town for years -- will seem like a camel caravan compared to the zippy speed of a cable modem; and if you already get cable TV from Charter, the installation will be a snap.

"Obviously, it will be a little quicker if you already have cable, we'll simply tap one of the lines to the cable, run a dedicated line to the modem, set it up near your computer.   Once the cable modem is installed, the technician will install either a network card, or plug the cable modem directly into your USB port," says Matt Mikiska, the broadband development coordinator for Charter Communictions in Missouri.

With all that completed, you'll see an immediate difference in how fast your pages come up while you browse.   Even at their lowest level of service, it's still twice as fast as the fastest modem.

"There's no waiting, there's no dialing out, which can be very irritating.   No busy signals, you get streaming video, which is great," says Mikiska.

Charter Communications is offering 4 levels of service, according to your needs and your pocketbook.   The most expensive and the fastest is $69.95 a month subscription.   The least expensive: $29.95.   Speeds range from 1500kbps, roughly 300-times faster than a dial-up modem, on down to 128kbps

In the early stages, Charter is offering any of those packages with free installation and the first month of service free.   The expense of the cable modem is part of the subscription cost.  You can buy your own cable modem if you want, and save $5-a-month.   Also, you can continue with your account with the internet service provider you already have, including AOL, or, use Charter as your ISP.  Many people stay with their previous provider largely to maintain their e-mail address.  You can, indeed, make this connection to your previous ISP through Charter, but you will have to maintan the cost of your monthly subscription charge with your previous ISP.

We had the chance to look into the brand-new facility Charter Communications calls their "head-in" building.   It's where all their sources come together, are processed, and then go out to your home.   What struck us about the inside was how empty it was.   Mikiska's explanation: "we're planning a future of growth."

"...We'll be offering video on demand, lots of different things.   We have planned this out for future growth, hopefully one of these years, all these racks will be full," says Mikiska.

Clearly, that future is one where Heartland internet surfers have a new, faster choice in getting online.   One caution:  with cable modems, you're always on the Internet, so you'll want to get some personal firewall software to protect yourself from viruses and hackers.  Also, you can watch TV and browse the internet at the same time, the signals do not interfere with each other.

This Charter cable modem service has been up and running in the St. Louis area for about 3 years now, so they've already worked out a lot of the kinks. The current thrust for cable modem penetration is in Cape, Jackson and Sikeston.