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Cable, Satellite Face Off At Best Buy

Demonstrating its willingness to take on multiple service platforms, Best Buy said it has signed on as the only national electronics chain to carry satellite-based broadband Internet equipment and services for Hughes Network Services’ (HNS) DirecPC system.

The announcement comes several weeks after the chain revealed it is testing sales of digital cable TV programming packages for AT&T Digital Cable in four Pittsburgh-area outlets. Best Buy has also carried cable modems that compete directly for broadband market share with DirecPC.

The deal with HNS encompasses all 354 Best Buy outlets in 37 states and comes in advance of AOL-Plus service, which is expected to be offered via DirecPC in the second quarter of 2000, according to HNS representatives.

Best Buy, which has carried HNS DirecTv receiver systems for about a year, is now in position to offer complete HNS DirecTv and DirecPC packages. DirecPC offers broadband high-speed Internet service for PC users via an elliptical dish. A telephone-based Internet service provider is required for the return path.

One DirecPC configuration, called DirecDuo, allows subscribers to share one dish connected to two receivers for separate PC and TV services.

An HNS representative confirmed that Best Buy is the only chain carrying DirecPC on a national basis. Best Buy rival Circuit City had carried DirecPC equipment and service briefly but dropped the product.

Best Buy is offering a DirecPC external USB modem at a special price of $149 after a $100 rebate.

Service packages are offered with and without telephone Internet service for the back channel.

The Executive Surfer package offers up to 100 hours of Internet access per month for $49.99 with ISP or $34.99 without telephone ISP.The Family Surfer package offers up to 25 hours per week for $19.99 per month without ISP or $29.99 per month with ISP.