SIKESTON - For those who have been anxiously waiting for cable modem Internet access in the area, the wait is over.
"We need to have beta testers test it, so if they're interested they need to call Charter," said Diane Hull, public relations representative for Charter Communications in Sikeston. "We are looking for 1,000 beta testers in this area."
A "beta test" follows company testing using volunteers from the public as a final check for bugs before releasing the product or service on the market. Beta tests often include "stress tests" as well to see how a service or software operates or holds up while under heavy use.
Charter Communications will begin testing Charter Pipeline, its high-speed cable modem Internet service, at the end of March or early April and should have the service available to the general public by May.
"A lot of people are going to eligible for this who can't get DSL because of the distance factor," said Hull. DSL is a high-speed Internet connection option available in some areas using telephone lines.
Communities to be included in the test in addition to Sikeston are Miner, Scott City, Oran, Chaffee, Kelso and Cape Girardeau.
Anyone in the service area is eligible to participate in the test although Charter would "like them to have some Internet experience," according to Hull. "They have to be able to provide information about how it works."
Dave Miller, vice president of Charter Communications in St. Louis, will be speaking to Charter employees Wednesday during two meetings at the Ramada Inn to prepare them for the coming test.
Hull said cable modem Internet access has several advantages over dial-up connections in addition to being up to 50 times faster.
"It's always on - you're always connected. That's the part I really like," said Hull. "No phone line needed - no extra cost."
Charter Pipeline customers may choose to keep AOL or any other ISP they presently use, Hull said. "A lot of people question that."
Hull said she expects packages to start at $29.95, with several packages to choose from. "We'll learn more about that Wednesday," she said.
Charter Pipeline customers will not have to be Charter Communication cable users. "If they have satellite dish or something else they can keep that," said Hull. "We'd love to have them as cable customers, but if they're not a cable customer ... we would like to have them as a pipeline customer."
If a customer does subscribe to both, however, they can use the Internet and watch cable television at the same time. "You're not taking away from one to do the other," said Hull.
Those interested in participating in the test should contact the local Charter Communications office at 472-0247, by calling toll free 1-800-882-0928 or in person at 312 E. Center Street.
In other Charter Communications news, Charter employees will also be testing a new system by which pay-per-view shows are ordered with the remote instead of by telephone, according to Hull.