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Cox Puts 'Self' In Self-Install

Cox Communications Inc. customers are on the brink of a data self-install experience that will put new emphasis on “self.” The use of new software will mean the technology will set itself up with information provided by the customer — and with no need for a phone call to the company or a visit to its Web site.

The cable company has contracted with Next Generation Broadband to utilize its Auto Install III, an automated subscriber-activation system. Potential Cox high-speed Internet customers will be able to buy a modem either online, or at a retail location.

Once plugged in, a consumer will access an Internet browser and be guided through service activation in less than 10 minutes.

In most cases, according to the software developer, high-speed Internet subscribers will be able to complete the install without intervention from the cable company.

Cox executives aren't finished deciding how they will use the product. They're still weighing whether the auto-install product is best used by a former or new customer in a pre-wired location, who must merely plug into existing cabling in the home; or by a new high-speed Internet customer with video service, where a wiring extension would be required.

“We would like it so any digital customer can do this,” said Mark Ball, manager of product-development strategy. Executives are also mulling how to address the needs of customers who are not technically inclined.

Over the next 30 days, a strategy team will examine the customer experience and determine how to balance the needs of technical and non-tech savvy data users, he added.

Cox has previously offered self-installation options, but those required some company assistance, either via phone or Web. Though the new product will empower customers who are comfortable and willing to work on making the connection themselves, the real driver behind the technology application is cost reduction. With rising gas and manpower costs — and with installations becoming more involved — a truck roll can now cost about $80, according to Cox executives.

The Next Generation software is network-based and needs no client software. Once the newly purchased modem is connected, the software recognizes a new device on the network. The customer is then led to a service-activation screen, where they enter contact and billing information, choose how fast their service will be and set up their e-mail account.

The user is then linked to the Internet service and can start surfing without having to reboot the computer. In the background, the software verifies the billing information, sets up the user ID, password and e-mail, configures the modem and activates service. It then returns control of the customer back to the operator's existing systems.

The software can handle 10,000 activations per day, according to Washington, D.C.-based Next Generation Broadband.

Executives at the software company believe that ease of install may prompt end users to buy more services from operators.

“This has tremendous implications for operators not just for service activation, but also for providing new services, managing existing customers, as well as self-administration of services by customers — all while preserving margin,” said Next Generation executive vice president Tiffany Norwood.