Columbia cable customers will soon have more than the World Wide Web and pay-per-view at their fingertips. This fall, Mediacom will begin offering land-line phone service, too.
The eighth-largest cable operator in the United States, Mediacom is following a trend among phone and cable companies that are bundling all telecommunications services onto a single bill.
Gary Baugh, the company’s general manager in Columbia, said it’s “a matter of price and service.”
“If something goes wrong, you know who to call,” Baugh said. “If all services are purchased, it will be at a discounted price. It’s saving the customer money.”
The new phone service will not require additional equipment, Baugh said, and will rely on standard phone equipment, outlets and wiring. Last year, Mediacom partnered with Sprint to provide switching services to the existing telephone network and to deliver 911 emergency service. Baugh called it a “business deal to create more traffic.”
Many phone companies have been experiencing a decrease in land line use. Don Neely, public relations manager for CenturyTel in Columbia, said that for the first quarter of 2005, CenturyTel reported a 2.9 percent decrease in land lines across its 23-state market.
“This is lower than most companies are experiencing,” said Neely.
Baugh is not concerned that use of land lines is decreasing and expects Mediacom to offer phone service to all of its 1.5 million subscribers by the end of 2006.
“We aren’t providing the service by itself,” he said. “We’re adding it to digital cable and Internet. It’s all on the same system.”
Cable companies are facing increased competition from phone companies looking to do the same thing Mediacom is planning — consolidate telecommunications services. In April, CenturyTel began offering Dish Network on top of its phone and Internet services.
Baugh said Mediacom is getting ready to test the new phone service, which will be offered to all customers in the Columbia and Jefferson City cable-service areas. Baugh expects customers to be attracted by the price, although he would not say how many people the company expects to switch from their existing phone service.
Neely of CenturyTel said Mediacom’s move could stir the local phone market.
“It will be interesting to watch everything get heated up,” he said.