updated 8/21/2008 5:05:27 PM ET 2008-08-21T21:05:27

Phone companies have been expanding their technology-support offerings, and AT&T Inc. took that trend one step further Thursday by introducing a tech-help plan that's even available to people who don't subscribe to other AT&T services.

AT&T ConnecTech offers in-home service for "virtually all" tech-support needs, the company said, including home theater installation, wall-mounting of flat-panel TVs and computer repair, starting at $99.

It's available in 50 states, but not in all areas. The phone company will be outsourcing some of the services to contractors.

Carmen Nava, senior vice president of consumer marketing at the Dallas-based company, called the home services industry a billion-dollar opportunity.

Other phone companies have been setting their sights on the same market, figuring that as Internet service providers, people call them about computer problems anyway. But they've mostly offered their expanded support plans to people who are already customers.

Verizon Communications Inc., the largest phone company after AT&T, introduced an Expert Care plan for its Internet customers in June that provides expanded technical support through the phone and online. Verizon has teamed with Circuit City Stores Inc. for in-home service.

Embarq Corp. also recently began offering support plans for home computers and networking to all its Internet customers, after trying the service in two markets.

Frontier Communications Corp. offers what it calls "Peace of Mind" services including wireless network diagnostics and online backup even to those who aren't phone or Internet customers. But it doesn't make house calls.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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