Cable provider now offering phone service

URBANA – About 28 people a day have been signing up for phone service from Insight Communications since the company began promoting the new service in East Central Illinois, company officials said.

Insight, best-known locally as the cable television provider for Champaign-Urbana and Danville, began offering phone service to a few customers in January, said Melody Brucker, the company's district vice president in Urbana.

That "soft launch" began to pick up steam in early March as the company started to advertise a bundled package that gives customers cable service, high-speed Internet service and phone service for as little as $90 a month.

"We feel we're able to compete in all three lines of business," Brucker said.

Insight's foray into phone service gives customers an alternative to AT&T, the dominant provider of local phone service in Champaign-Urbana and Danville. AT&T, meanwhile, is trying to make inroads into the cable realm, with legislation pending in Springfield that would enable telecommunications companies to enter the wire-based video market.

Brucker and John Dobken, Insight's senior manager for corporate communications, said Insight is offering a promotional "triple play" package that allows new customers to pay $40 for the first of the three services, $30 for the second service and either $20 or $30 for the new option, telephone service.

The $30 phone option includes local service plus unlimited long distance in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. The $20 phone option provides local service plus 180 minutes of long distance service per month. The options also include call waiting, three-way calling, call forwarding, voice-mail and other features.

Roughly 90 percent of customers have been choosing the unlimited long-distance option, Brucker said.

Those who sign up for Insight's phone service keep their existing phone number without incurring additional fees, she added.

Insight Phone 2.0 phone calls travel over managed networks, with quality-of-service monitoring that Insight says provides more reliability, security and voice quality than traditional Voice Over Internet Protocol services.

Dobken said another advantage of Insight's plan is that customers know exactly what their bill is going to be each month.

However, the Insight monthly charge does not include taxes, regulatory fees, line charges, universal connection charges and charges for international and directory-assistance calls.

Though Insight phone service is available through most of the Champaign District, it is not yet available in the Broadlands/Newman area or the Ridge Farm/Chrisman area, Brucker said.

Insight Communications is the ninth-largest cable operator in the United States, serving about 1.3 million customers in Illinois, Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio.

Its Champaign District serves more than 54,000 customers in the communities of Champaign, Urbana, Savoy, Bondville, Homer, Ogden, Philo, Sidney, St. Joseph, Danville, Oakwood, Fairmount, Fithian, Muncie, Olivet, Indianola, Chrisman and Ridge Farm, as well as a few communities in western Indiana.

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