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Home security -- from the cable guy

More cable-TV companies are offering home-monitoring systems in their markets. Know the drawbacks before you sign.

By MSN Money Partner Apr 20, 2012 10:48AM

This post comes from Kelli B. Grant at partner site SmartMoney.


SmartMoney on MSN MoneyThe same company that provides your home phone, Internet and television services now wants to offer some protection.


Image: Thief Gets Distracted (© Sean Locke/Vetta/Getty Images)A growing number of telecom providers have added home security to their lineup of services. Their interactive systems use sensors and cameras to monitor the property, while apps let users check in remotely and receive alerts about trouble.


Comcast has expanded its Xfinity Home system to 65% of its markets since the 2010 pilot. In October, Verizon introduced Home Monitoring and Control in 12 states and Washington, D.C. Time Warner Cable launched IntelligentHome in markets including Los Angeles, Hawaii and upstate New York last summer. Cox Communications and AT&T are separately in the process of rolling out similar programs.


For the companies, the services are a way to "improve their revenue per user" by tapping into the $8 billion home security market, says Tom Kerber, the research director for home controls and energy at Parks Associates, a research firm. Telecoms are worried about slowing broadband growth -- 62% of households already have it, according to Pew Research -- as well as the rise in landline cord-cutting, he says.


CTIA-The Wireless Association reports that roughly a third of households are wireless only, up from 11% in 2006. It helps that smart-home technology has also become cheaper and more widespread in recent years, as consumers get used to using their smartphones to control the thermostat or sync with the car's entertainment system.


These companies say their smart-security setups let consumers have more interaction with their home than simply activating an alarm when they leave home and disarming it when they get back. Window and door sensors and cameras interact with apps and a control panel, letting customers set rules about when the system reacts, and how.


For example, "when doors open, the system takes a video of whatever made that door open, and I get an alert on my phone," says Mitch Bowling, a senior vice president for Comcast Cable. (Post continues below.)

Users can also set alerts for things that don't happen, such as if the front door doesn't open by 3:30 p.m. when the kids should be home from school. As an added benefit, most systems can tie in technology to control home appliances such as the thermostat, lights and door locks from afar. So you could set the system to turn on the light when that front door opens or turn on the air conditioning when you're on your way home from work, says Ann Shaub, the director of product management for Verizon.


Cheaper -- but is it better?

The services are typically cheaper than going through a dedicated security firm -- $10 to $40 per month instead of $30 to $75. But experts warn that consumers are probably getting less protection. More elaborate home security systems can monitor for threats as diverse as carbon monoxide and rising water levels that smart systems can't detect.


In addition, some telecoms' monitoring services alert solely to you, without relaying an alarm in a central monitoring station that would call the police or fire department, says James Orvis, a former executive vice president of the Electronic Security Association and owner of Security Solutions in Norwalk, Conn. Miss the text that the door sensor tripped and the police may not arrive in time to catch the burglar.


It's also added risk if you're at home during a fire, break-in or other emergency where calling for help yourself isn't easy or safe, he says.


On the other hand, having alerts that go only to you limits the number of false alarms, which some police departments add a fine for responding to, Orvis says. Verizon's Shaub says Home Monitoring and Control, which doesn't use a central monitoring station, still provides peace of mind and keeps consumers in tune with what's going on in the house. At the very least, it's a way homeowners can keep tabs on their kids and pets.

Shoppers should also be careful to dig into package details to determine the full cost before signing up, says Chris McGoey, a Los Angeles-based security consultant. Telecom companies' $70 to $500 one-time equipment charge is typically for a basic kit with a monitoring station and a few sensors; consumers with a large house will need to buy extra equipment for thorough coverage. So will those who want remote control over more home devices.


Services may also charge extra for connectivity to a cellular network so alarms will sound even if the power goes out. "By the time you get the system that you really want, it costs you a heck of a lot more than the promotional offer," McGoey says.


In addition, consumers may have little recourse to change their mind: Some offers require a two-year service contract.


More on SmartMoney and MSN Money:

May 12, 2012 3:24PM
Oh, sure.  You already know how they work:  They'll sign you up for the low, low! price of $10 a month--with a $250 "installation" charge--and "fees" that will amount to another $10 per month.  By the end of 6 months, you'll be getting a bill for $25.68, and "Sign up for online payment, because it's so much more convenient for you."  They'll continue to advertise $10/month that's really $25/month and all your personal information they can steal.  You call this "security???"  F*** them; I'll pay the teenager next door to keep an eye out for cable companies.
May 12, 2012 3:34PM
I already have a Home Security System. It has four legs and stands up taller than most people that confront him. Yes he,s a wonderful Dobermen. That is untill he is left with commands to guard the house while we are away. Then he takes full CONTROL.
May 12, 2012 5:35PM
Lol, They cant even keep the internet up.
May 12, 2012 4:48PM

I bet you call them for help because someone is trying to break into your home and they put you on hold.


Once a live person is on the phone, I bet they will ask you to turn your system off an back on to make sure it is working properly.


You ask them to get someone over to you right away for help and they promise to have someone there in 48 hours.  They do however promise to call you before they come, but expect you to be home for a 6 hour window incase they are running behind or early.


After the intruder has robbed you blind, and done whatever else bad guys do, I bet the cable company will offer to give you improved service for six months free, afterwhich you will be required to pay through the nose.


I love doing business with the cable company!



May 12, 2012 4:05PM
The cable companies cant keep the internet line connected, TV service going out in storms. Do you really think I am going to trust them to secure Our home (  I THINK NOT)...
May 12, 2012 6:31PM
Sounds like one more way to Nickle and Dime people out of their money.
May 12, 2012 6:29PM
Time warner cable is such a RIP OFF!!!!!
May 12, 2012 9:06PM

So TWC is now going to protect my home when they can't even get my cable service right? I think I should just get a dog.


TWC screws up my cable service , cable TV, Computer service, phone service, and now I should let the worse servers in the country say that now they will protect my family and home? Yeah right. May be I should just move to a country with no service and feel just as safe?

May 12, 2012 7:34PM
Question.- What happens if a teenager cuts my cable line?
May 13, 2012 1:06AM
Best security I know is manufactured by Smith and Wesson.
May 12, 2012 9:52PM
I wonder if they can peak at what you are doing while you are there and sell the rights to companies or government to spy on you
May 12, 2012 10:24PM
Screw the cable companies ...... install your own cameras (I use lorex) you can view via PC or smart phone and there is NO CHARGES  .... you can set it to email you when motion is detected and the included dvr holds 6 weeks of video ...... best $325 you can spend (4 camera system)
May 12, 2012 4:35PM
the security system is backed up by wireless, read the article before you post. Same wireless as your phones though so if in a bad area might as well hang it up.
May 12, 2012 11:27PM

As a 35+ year customer of any number of cable companies...most recently including Comcast in Calif., and now Charter in Nevada......There's PLENTY that I have to say, but 99% of it would probably result in my being "locked up" for some sort of mental evaluation.........for making terroristic "threats"......Sooner or later, you can all read about it in the headlines.

May 12, 2012 7:57PM
I don't own anything of value anyway so if someone breaks in they find an almost empty house.
May 12, 2012 11:19PM
Cable is totally worthless.  Don't need any of their overpriced antiquated garbage.  Hopefully they monitor responses.

May 13, 2012 12:59AM

That would be Ironic, seeing how Cablevision is one of the biggest thieves in my area & they are already IN my house.


May 12, 2012 10:58PM

Time Warner is my cable provider and I can't wait to dump them. I also have an alarm system and would never let them provide alarm service for me. They can't even provide me HBO GO on my xbox or ROKU; and I am still waiting for the NFL Network!

Jan 3, 2013 6:39PM
The cable guy is interested in two things: (1) to bind you down with more contracts and (2) get you hooked to their ridiculously pricey cable networks. You should always buy home security systems made by independent makers, companies whose interests are not singularly directed at getting you to sign up with their other services. Oplink Security, for instance, offers wireless home security at a great value that actually provides true security and surveillance.
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