Google started rolling out its experimental Google Fiber service a few years back, and at the time ISPs seemed unconcerned. Comcast and its brethren didn’t think people wanted those speeds. Google Fiber still isn’t widespread, but it is expanding and proved that consumers do have an appetite for faster broadband than they’ve been getting from cable and DSL providers. Rather than let upstarts steal away its most lucrative customers,Comcast is rolling out its own gigabit service. In Atlanta, where Google Fiber is planning an expansion, the service just came online. However, no one is happy with the offerings.
Comcast can reasonably call its new high-speed service “gigabit.” It does run at 1Gbps down, just like Google Fiber. However, the upload speeds are only 35Mbps. There are traditional internet packages available in some markets that have faster uploads. By contrast, Google Fiber is symmetric 1 gigabit up and down. This might have something to do with Comcast running its gigabit service over DOCSIS 3.1 rather than installing fiber to homes as Google does.
Comcast is asking $70 per month for gigabit in Atlanta — the same as Google’s internet-only offering. Atlanta is one of Comcast’s test markets for capped bandwidth as well, and it’s using that to push gigabit customers into contracts. Yes, contracts for broadband are still a thing. If you choose to forego the contract, you pay a whopping $140 per month for your gigabit Comcast connection, and you are still subject to the 300GB monthly cap. Agreeing to a crazy three-year contract is the only way you can get that $70 monthly price. Guess which price Comcast is promoting.
As video streaming services continue to replace TV for many households, a 300GB cap is increasingly tough to stick to. The increasing availability of 4K video from providers like Netflix is also pushing bandwidth usage higher. This is what Comcast wants, though. If it’s painful enough to live under 300GB without paying overages, people will just stick to paying for TV service to avoid the hassle. At 1Gbps down, you could use up an entire month’s cap in 40 minutes.
Comcast doesn’t even seem convinced its current pricing is expensive enough. It refers to the $70 contract price as a “promotion.” The Atlanta gigabit deployment is an experiment that Comcast will use to adjust its offerings in other markets. Comcast might actually decide to price gigabit internet higher elsewhere, especially in places where there isn’t a gigabit provider. I’m sure those prices will magically fall should someone start deploying fiber, though. Comcast plans to expand its gigabit service to Nashville shortly, followed by Chicago, Detroit, and Miami later this year.