Comcast to add 410 jobs

Hot Web-phone-TV package to benefit Md., Del.

August 30, 2006|By Stacey Hirsh | Stacey Hirsh,Sun reporter

Comcast Corp. said yesterday that it plans to add 410 jobs in Maryland and Delaware, due largely to the popularity of its package deal for cable, Internet and phone services.

The announcement comes at a time when competition is increasing for all three services. Telephone giant Verizon Communications Inc., for instance, now offers a fiber-optic television service known as FiOS TV to customers around the country, including parts of Maryland.

Comcast, which entered the market as a cable TV company, said its phone and Internet business has been growing rapidly in its Eastern Division, which includes Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Washington, Virginia and North Carolina. Michael Doyle, the division president, said it currently has about 250,000 digital voice (or telephone) customers, compared with 37,000 at the beginning of the year. Comcast has 2.5 million Internet customers in the Eastern Division, compared with 1.9 million at the start of the year.

"When you have two products like that, neither is showing a sign of slowing down and on the telephone side it's actually speeding up, you need employees to address that," Doyle said.

The new positions will bring to 3,800 the number of Comcast employees in the Maryland-Delaware region, double the number it was five years ago. And Doyle said the company would continue adding jobs as demand for its services increases. The new hires will include 200 technicians, 190 customer service representatives, 10 warehouse workers and 10 dispatch workers.

About 56,000 customers have Comcast's telephone service in its Maryland-Delaware area, compared with less than 7,000 in January, Doyle said.

The service area includes Baltimore, Harford, Cecil, Howard, Anne Arundel, Calvert and Charles counties as well as Baltimore City and the Eastern Shore in Maryland and Kent and Sussex counties in Delaware.

A third of Comcast's new customers are signing up for the company's "triple play" package of telephone, cable and Internet for $99 dollars a month for the first 12 months.

"There's a real hunger out there for people to get the new product," Doyle said.

Cable companies are faring well as telecom businesses move into new service areas and compete for customers, said Brahm Eiley, president of the Convergence Consulting Group, a consulting and research firm in Toronto.

At the end of last year, the cable companies had 5 percent of the U.S. residential telephone market. The Convergence Consulting Group expects they will have 8 percent of the market by the end of this year and 13 percent by the end of next year, Eiley said.

Telephone companies lost 8 percent of their residential wire-line phone customers last year and are expected to lose another 9 percent this year, Eiley said.

"The cable guys really aren't seeing the impact from the other side that the ... telephone companies are seeing from the cable companies," he said.

Still, Eiley said, Verizon is faring well in the convergence race and is a formidable competitor to the cable companies.

Verizon has franchise agreements to offer its fiber-optic FiOS television service in Anne Arundel and Howard counties and in Bowie. The company is negotiating franchise agreements with Laurel and other Maryland municipalities.

Verizon spokeswoman Sandra Arnette said the company is constantly receiving e-mails from customers wondering when FiOS TV is coming to their neighborhood.

Arnette said Verizon, too, has added several hundred jobs in the Maryland area since it began deploying its fiber-optic network.

Verizon's television, phone and Internet packages range from $91 to $109 a month.

"There's no doubt that competition is heating up," Arnette said, "and I think that perhaps Comcast is feeling the pressure, particularly as we're rolling out our FiOS service."

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