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Comcast Data Maneuver: Instant Install

Comcast Corp. is literally answering a cheap shot with speed, drawing out a favorite video-promotion arrow to use in its escalating battle with rival digital subscriber line provider Verizon Communications.

In response to Verizon's move in May to drop DSL service prices below the $35 monthly mark, Comcast is offering customers in the Washington, D.C., and Richmond, Va., systems an Instant Install option. If they call before 5 p.m. on a given day, they can have their new cable modem delivered and install it that evening.

It's the latest salvo in an increasingly competitive war with telcos,including Verizon.

"When Verizon got aggressive on their pricing structure back in the first part of May, we of course got to work right away on a promotional strategy," said Jaye Gamble, senior vice president of the Washington metro/Virginia region, including the D.C. suburbs and the Richmond, Va., area. "We as a company decided pretty quickly we were not going to respond based on the rates or the price. But we have always been aggressive on the promos, so we put our thinking caps on for promotional strategy that would respond to this."

Same-day connection offers are not exactly a new trick for Comcast, which has been using that promotion for video service dating back to when it launched HBO.

But Gamble credits Carolyn Rumbarger, regional vice president of marketing, for proposing that the tactic be applied to the data business.

Comcast staged an ad campaign coordinating TV spots with instant-install capacity. It offered customers the opportunity to sign up for service before 5 p.m. and receive a self-installation kit and the tech support to install it.

But they aren't always tapping the promotion itself. Comcast has found that while customers like the idea of same-day service, they don't always opt for it.

"What's interesting is that a number of people call in and they say 'You know, I want the offer, but I don't want you to come tonight. I want you to come two days from now, or I want you to come on Saturday or whatever,'" Gamble noted. "But they see the ad — it's quick, it's available now, pick up the phone and we will get it to you."

The promotion typically runs for two or three days in a given market, with extra technical support scheduled during those periods to meet the response, Gamble said. In doing so, Comcast has not had to hire additional customer service representatives to answer the phones.