AT&T Tests Low Cable-Modem Tier

How low can cable-modem providers go? According to AT&T Broadband, 75
kilobits per second.

Continuing its experiment with tiered data service, the MSO is testing a
'SelectLink' 75-kbps service in select southern Florida systems and the Los
Angeles market.

The offering -- marketed to digital-cable customers only -- provides
always-on, 75-kbps downstream service for $26.99 monthly, regardless of whether
customers lease or own their own modem.

That is a much lower price and data rate compared with AT&T Broadband's
existing cable-modem offerings, including the original 'ChoiceLink' tier,
offered at $42.95 monthly for customers who own a modem and $45.95 for those who
lease, and the recently added 'UltraLink' tier, priced at $79.95 monthly for
those with their own modems and $82.95 for those who lease.

In offering the SelectLink tier, AT&T is trying to see if it can attract
dial-up users who are not necessarily in the need for speed, but who like the
idea of a low-cost, always-on connection that doesn't tie up a phone line.

By marketing it to digital-cable customers only, the MSO is also testing the
allure of bundling, according to spokeswoman Sarah Eder.

'It's to help people make the leap from the dial-up environment to
broadband,' she said. 'We know from behavioral standpoint that while customers
sign up for broadband for the speed, they stick around for the always-on.'

But the service has other limits, namely in customer service. SelectLink
customers will have around-the-clock access to online technical-support
services, including a technician chat service. But help via telephone be
available from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on
Saturday, and there will be no telephone help available on Sunday.

'The reason why is to offer the lowest price, we are trying to keeping our
costs down,' Eder said.

AT&T Broadband has not set how long the trial will last, nor if it will
be expanded to other markets. Those decisions likely will be made by the
incoming AT&T Comcast Corp. management when the pending merger between the
two MSOs closes later this year, she added.