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Comcast calls out Qwest
Digital Voice offers unlimited local and long-distance service on managed lines. Comcast hopes to lure the Denver telecom's users.
By Kimberly S. Johnson, Staff Writer
Denver Post
Tuesday, November 15, 2005


Comcast rolls out its Digital Voice phone service today in the Denver metro area, stepping up the competition against Qwest on its home turf.

Residents in 47 cities and towns, from Boulder to Larkspur, will be able to receive the new service, which uses Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP.

Stand-alone local and long-distance service will cost $54.95 a month for unlimited calling.  If Comcast customers combine the phone service with high-speed Internet and cable television, the total cost is $125.39 a month.

Comcast is the nation's largest cable-TV provider, with 21.4 million subscribers.  More than 700,000 of those customers are in Colorado.  The cable company has offered a traditional switched-circuit phone product in the Denver area, but it doesn't have the growth potential of Digital Voice.

The move is a challenge to Qwest, the dominant local-phone provider in Colorado and 13 other Midwestern and Western states.  Cable company Cox Communications has mounted an aggressive campaign to take phone customers from Qwest in Omaha and Phoenix using Internet-type phone service.  In Omaha, Qwest no longer provides service to a majority of households.

"Cox did a good job in Omaha," Qwest chief executive Richard Notebaert said in an interview with The Denver Post last week.  "But it was our fault."

He said Qwest has a different strategy for keeping customers in Phoenix and that it has forced Cox to change its approach.

While it remains to be seen how Qwest will compete in the Denver area, it certainly can fight the battle on the price front.

Qwest's stand-alone Internet phone service is $29.99 a month.  It also offers bundles of service that include high-speed Internet, television and cellphone service.  A package of those three, plus a land line, costs $119.96 a month.

Qwest began offering VoIP service to residents in the Denver metro area in May.  The company's traditional land-line phone service with unlimited local and long-distance calling starts at $44.99.

"We have the experience.  We have the reliable network ... and we can deliver additional service, functionality and reliability," said Qwest spokeswoman Carey Madsen.

Comcast is launching a marketing campaign to inform residents of the Digital Voice service.  The company is offering a six-month promotional price of $69.95 a month for Digital Voice, high-speed Internet and standard cable.  Standard cable offers about 80 channels.  Installation fees will be reduced from $99 to $49.

Comcast says its calls are not routed over the public Internet, but travel over Comcast's managed high-speed network.  That means it can provide 911 services like traditional land-line phone systems.

"Our privately managed network serves as a strong foundation for today's voice, television and high-speed Internet products," said Scott Binder, senior vice president for Comcast Colorado.

Comcast began rolling out its Digital Voice product last year in other markets such as Philadelphia, Indianapolis, Baltimore and Boston, and it plans to be in 20 major markets by the end of 2005.

Vonage is the largest VoIP provider in the nation, with more than 1 million active lines.  Vonage's unlimited monthly residential service costs $24.99.

Staff writer Kimberly Johnson can be reached at kjohnson@denverpost.com or 303-820-1088.

http://www.denverpost.com/business/ci_3216111