Google's stated aim of bringing some competition into the US broadband market has led to an interesting offer from Comcast – it'll double the Chocolate Factory's connection speed for more than four times the monthly cost.
Comcast's Gigabit Pro Xfinity service, launched on Monday, will offer residential customers living within a third of a mile of the telco's fiber network a symmetrical connection of up to 2Gbps for $299.95 a month, although that doesn't include Xfinity TV, Voice, or Home services. Installation costs $500, and activating the line costs "up to" $500.
The telco has been extending the range of its Gigabit Pro fiber network and it’s now available along corridors in seven states, including the Silicon Valley. Customers will have to sign up for at least two years to get the service and will need a Windows 8.1 or Mac OS X 10.8 system with 8GB of RAM.
It's a bit of a turnaround for Comcast. Barely two years ago its executive vice president David Cohen argued that most consumers didn't have the need for gigabit-speed internet access and lacked the equipment to run it if they did.
"For some, the discussion about the broadband Internet seems to begin and end on the issue of 'gigabit' access," he said in an editorial for the Philadelphia Inquirer.
"Today there is a cottage industry of critics who always want to tell us that our broadband Internet is not fast enough or satisfactory for one reason or another. The reality is that the United States is leading the way in speed, reach, and access – and doing so in a vast, rural nation that poses logistical connectivity challenges unlike any other country."
However, Google Fiber is getting more and more cities online with its 1Gbps service for just $70, and in those locales other big telcos, including Comcast, have cut prices and upped speeds with alacrity. Now that state municipalities can run their own fiber networks, competition can only increase, and Comcast is wiring up Chicago, Atlanta, Miami, and a lot of California.
Comcast might find a few customers for this new service – particularly in the Bay Area where the well-heeled queue around the block for $4 slices of "artisanal" toast. But it's a long game, and the company can afford to milk the cream until competition forces a price cut, having earned $3.9bn profit in its last financial quarter. ®