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Emerging Start-Up JNET Targets MSO Needs

A former AT&T Corp. executive is hoping cable operators' desire to deliver more advanced services while curbing costs will mean big things for his new company.

David Jefferson, a former executive vice president in AT&T's Business Services unit, left the telecom giant last year to start JNET LLC.

Earlier this month, JNET made a foray into cable construction and installs, buying LDW Inc., a Pennsylvania firm, in what he termed a "multimillion-dollar" transaction. Jefferson, who wouldn't disclose many financial details about his transactions, said he's backed by Atlas Holdings, a private merchant bank in Greenwich, Conn.

LDW, since renamed Vitel Communications, had construction contracts in place with major MSOs Comcast Corp., Adelphia Communications Corp., Charter Communications Inc. and Cox Communications Inc.

As MSOs complete rebuilds and that business winds down, Jefferson hopes to compensate by performing more customer installs.

JNET also wants to be a one-stop shop for cable and telecommunications providers, offering construction, installation and customer-service functions.

Another JNET company, Servicom, recently reached a deal with Comcast to provide follow-up calls to customers that buy new services, including digital cable and HDTV.

Advanced services have become a growing component of a cable operator's overall profitability, and Comcast executives have said performing follow-up calls to make sure those customers are satisfied is increasingly important.

The data can help operators make changes to services based on customer needs — and the calls themselves can help customers feel better about the provider, thus reducing churn.

Jefferson said Servicom will fulfill the nationwide Comcast agreement through its MacChesney Park, Ill., call center. Other Servicom clients include Motorola Inc., Allstate Insurance and Pitney-Bowes.

He said Servicom employees will basically ask Comcast customers how happy they were with the install, how they like the features and functions of the service and whether any internal processes could be improved.

Jefferson hopes the Comcast contract will lead to other cable business, like taking customers' orders and upselling them to advanced services.

As for outsourcing installs, it's unclear whether or not that's a growing trend.

Adelphia vice president of network planning and construction Keith Hayes said using outside contractors for installations is a common practice for most MSOs, and the decision usually is left to individual systems.

"It varies widely on a city-to-city basis," Hayes said.

MSOs don't have to pay for benefits for contract installers, but it's not necessarily the least expensive alternative. "It's almost a religious debate on which one can be cheaper," Hayes said.