The spread of broadband into the consumer market got a boost yesterday with the announcement that a major Internet access provider, Comcast Corp., will distribute broadband access kits through Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

The spread of broadband into the consumer market got a boost yesterday with the announcement that Comcast Corp., a major Internet access provider, will distribute broadband access kits through Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

Comcast, with 8.5 million subscribers to its cable broadband Internet access service, will introduce in 500 Wal-Mart stores within its service areas this spring broadband web access kits that include a cable modem and an installation kit. A Comcast spokeswoman says Comcast is also talking with Wal-Mart about selling the kit through Walmart.com, but that no decision had been made regarding online sales. The two companies also did not say if they plan to extend their agreement beyond 500 stores.

Studies have shown that consumers who use broadband web access spend more online.

Comcast already sells broadband and other digital services through several major retailers, including Best Buy, Circuit City, CompUSA, Office Depot, Office Max and Radio Shack, in some cases through the retailers’ web sites as well as stores. Although Comcast doesn’t reveal the percent of total broadband sales that it processes through retail partners, the spokeswoman notes that its broadband access sales through retailers, including resellers of Internet access like Leapfrog, have grown 49% over the past 12 months.

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Wal-Mart, No. 12 in the Internet Retailer Top 400 Guide to Retail Web Sites, is the first to offer a bundled broadband kit, including a Motorola SB120 modem and Comcast’s self-install kit, the spokeswoman says, noting a price of $59.97. The self-install kit, which is intended for customers who already have Comcast cable TV access in their homes, takes minutes to install with a phone jack and CD software, she adds.

Comcast, which has 21.4 million cable customers, is also selling through Wal-Mart stores digital video and voice services. The digital video service lets subscribers receive on-demand videos through their cable TV service. The voice service, which is based on Internet protocol technology running over Comcast’s private network, provides unlimited local and long-distance U.S. calls for $39.95 per month.

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