Net Service Wars Hit Home

Cramer offers a look at how the Comcast-AT&T battle affects his own household.
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You want to know what this fight between





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is over? Let me put it in terms everybody will understand. This battle over one of the largest cable properties boils down to a simple note my wife left me on the kitchen table this morning:

If you want me to call you back this morning, stop forgetting to plug the phone back in after you are through with your email.

Too simple? I don't think so. (And I love my early morning email download, as many of you know.) Comcast wants to stop AT&T from encroaching into its world, because Comcast knows from its own massive rollout of cable modems that it will win against your local ISP if it has wired your home for TV.

Look, I love my local ISP. (I will leave its name out because I am not in the business of shilling for or hurting small companies.) The ISP attends to me personally, and it's dirt cheap. It is, however, experiencing problems -- growing pains -- that make it slower than I like.

That's why when I got the Comcast flier the day before I left for vacation offering me free installation for


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service and an incredibly low price for unlimited use, I got all fired up. But the main issue in my house is when will the cable guy come. My wife hates my tampering with her phones so much that she gave me carte blanche to schedule it anytime I wanted. She was thrilled.

I suspect that those of us who fight over phone lines or have installed a second line somewhere in the house (as I have upstairs) have become a source of continual conflict with everybody else in the family. We tie up phones, we forget to plug things back, we take too long.

It is amazing that we learned at all to pull the jack of a phone out and replace it with the modem from the computer. Amazing because it is not a habit any of us were taught when we grew up.

But the idea of not tying up the phones for a price that is cheap and offers you instant access (compared to the 35 seconds I have to wait between when I want to go on and when I am in) is an attractive one. Plus, the hassle of the pullout from behind the couch or coffee maker -- not to mention the wrath of the spouse -- has grown tiresome.

That's why if I can get faster better Net service from cable, I am going to. Comcast must know this. It has rolled enough homes into cable-modem service that it can make a decision.

So it isn't giving up so easily. It can't afford to. It is not going to grow by just signing up more homes for


. It needs the Net, and it has millions of jack-pullers begging for service.

So the merger dance continues.

Random musings:

First Union


, in danger of having gone a few months without punishing shareholders, redeems itself yesterday and grabs the mantle with that


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James J. Cramer is manager of a hedge fund and co-founder of At time of publication, his fund was long @Home, although positions can change at any time. Under no circumstances does the information in this column represent a recommendation to buy or sell stocks. Cramer's writings provide insights into the dynamics of money management and are not a solicitation for transactions. While he cannot provide investment advice or recommendations, he invites you to comment on his column at