With new devices proliferating in homes like kudzu spiked with Miracle-Gro, Comcast has launched a new support service to troubleshoot subscribers' in-home connection problems.
While the concept of Best Buy's "Geek Squad" isn't a new one, Comcast is taking a proactive step in helping customers deal with new Wi-Fi-enabled devices such as laptops, smartphones, tablets and gaming consoles with its Xfinity Signature Support service.
By offering the service, Comcast is hoping to alleviate customers' frustrations when a new device doesn't work on a home network. Often subscribers contact their cable operators when a device doesn't work instead of the device manufacturer.
According to a 2010 survey by Parks Associates, more than 50 percent of Americans with Internet service look to their broadband provider as their first or second choice in solving their home computer-related technical issues. Additionally, 75 percent of those surveyed prefer to receive all of their technical support services from a single vendor.
Comcast will reap some incremental revenues with Xfinity Signature Support. The service features monthly subscription plans and one-time support options.
Comcast is launching Xfinity Signature Support in the Twin Cities, Atlanta and Chattanooga, Tenn., markets, with plans to make it available in the remainder of the company's markets this year.
The additional support can come in the form of phone calls, online sessions or a visit to a subscriber's home.
The tech support is available either as part of a monthly subscription plan or on a standalone basis for one-time fixes, such as virus removal or connecting printers or game consoles to wireless networks. Xfinity Signature Support also offers extended equipment plans covering computers and flat-panel TVs.
Comcast has a range of prices for the services. For one-time fees, Internet security and virus removal cost $129.95, wireless network set-up 79.95 and computer setup, or tune-up, $49.95.
As for the monthly subscription plans, "complete home support," which includes 24/7/365 phone support for up to four computers in a home for home networking, maintenance, virus removal and peripherals, costs $19.95 per month, while wireless network support is priced at $5.95 per month.
Comcast is working with Support.com for remote support online and by phone and with Asurion for in-home visits and the equipment protection plan.
"We want our customers to have a great experience with Comcast, and we've been making significant investments to enhance our products while improving the service and support we deliver," said Mitch Bowling, senior vice president and general manager of new businesses for Comcast Cable. "Given the incredible growth and complexity of personal electronics devices, our customers have told us they would like additional choices for technical assistance beyond the support we already provide for their video, Internet and voice services. As we continue to invest in the overall Comcast experience, Xfinity Signature Support lets us provide an end-to-end technical support solution for customers."
While Comcast is battling over-the-top providers on one front, Signature Support will help hook up some of those very devices that deliver Internet-streamed video into its subscribers' homes from another source such as Netflix.
Verizon, Qwest and AT&T  have their own versions of tech support services.