Comcast's Answer To Google Fiber, A Service That's Twice As Fast, But Four Times As Expensive

from the fine-print dept

Back in early April Comcast unveiled its response to Google Fiber: a new two gigabit service the company promised would be made available to eighteen million customers before the end of the year. For the next four months the company made a lot of PR references to this ultra fast tier, but despite an April promise the product was launching “soon,” there’s five months left in the year and nobody can actually sign up for it. Comcast, now facing Google Fiber, indie ISP and municipal broadband pressure in a growing number of markets, has also consistently refused to state how much this new service would cost.

With the new service’s website going live, it’s now pretty clear why. While Google Fiber will offer users a symmetrical gigabit connection for $70 a month (with a waived $300 install fee if you sign a one year contract), Comcast is offering users twice the speed with this new “Gigabit Pro” service — but at around four times the cost. As the fine print on the website indicates, Comcast also just can’t help itself when it comes to caveats:

So in addition to the double gigabit service costing users $300 a month, Comcast’s attempt at competition comes with a $500 installation fee and a $500 activation fee. Users also face a more than $1000 early termination fee should they leave before the two-year contract is up. That’s of course before any other mystery fees Comcast adds below the line. You’ll also need to wait six to eight weeks after ordering to actually get your service, which thanks to the usual “up to” language may or may not actually reach advertised speeds.

On the plus side, while Comcast continues to experiment with usage-based pricing this tier won’t be capped, and it looks like they’re offering a $159 promo price for a limited time (though only in some markets and only if users agree to a three year contract). And at least Comcast is building out its network, something you’ll recall wasn’t supposed to be possible thanks to the horrible, investment-stifling menace of ISP Title II reclassification and new net neutrality rules. That’s assuming Comcast’s plan isn’t just “fiber to the press release,” something that’s not entirely clear since nobody has been able to sign up for this service yet.

Still, $1000 in buried fees right out of the gate is a very Comcast-esque way of competing when companies like Google Fiber, and and Tucows/Ting are trying to go out of their way to eliminate obnoxious hidden fees as a user pain point. And in places like Atlanta, where Comcast is experimenting with usage caps, Comcast is making avoiding said caps only possible if you’re willing to pay an extreme premium for a service with speeds few people will ever need. In short, Comcast is offering two gigabit service simply to say that they do; service pricing on Comcast tiers that people actually buy will meanwhile continue their slow march skyward.

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Comments on “Comcast's Answer To Google Fiber, A Service That's Twice As Fast, But Four Times As Expensive”

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JohnnyRotten (profile) says:

You'll need additional in house networking equipment

Not Comcasts fault, but to take advantage of 2Gb/s to your computer also means an upgrade in your switching and NIC hardware to the 10Gb/s standard from the 1Gb/s you’re probably on. $$$

Also, assuming you can find a site that will let you pull data at 2GB/s, you’ll going to need a drive capable of ~250Mb/s write speed. So SSD it is.

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Re: Re: You'll need additional in house networking equipment

“Or you can have multiple people in a household using for 4k video” — not really.

JohnnyRotten’s point is that your existing wifi router, switches, Cat 5 wires, and NIC cards may all be inadequate to handle the speed – or even to share it to multiple PCs.

Even with mulitple PCs doing 4K, the bottleneck could still be the “in house networking equipment”. Which, as said, isn’t Comcast’s fault.

I have my house wired at pretty much cutting edge, and it’s 1 Gbps infrastructure. Few homes are wired for more. Actually, not “wired”, but “cabled” is probably the operative word, since it would be in-wall fiber as the next step over Cat 6 Gig ethernet.

Sounds to me like this service is for show, not for actual sales. Fiber to the Press Release, as Karl wrote.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: You'll need additional in house networking equipment

Cat6a can do 10Gbps, even Cat6 can do it over 30 meters.

All you need is a descent switch and some descent devices to pull data down with.

To be fair 40 Mbps is fine for the HD streaming my household needs. Who really needs 2Gbps today? Maybe in 5 years we might.

Anonymous Coward says:

The “Comcast(c)2015. All rights reserved.” at the end is just the icing on the cake… so I guess Comcast must own the copyright on gouging customers.

“Actual speeds vary and are not guaranteed.” So you pay an extortionate rate for a pipe that could (rarely, but still) go as low as 56kbps.

Good one Comcast. That’s how you get new customers.

RD says:

Never say this again

“…for a service with speeds few people will ever need. “

Please, never, EVER say this in regards to tech. Luddite thinking like that is exactly WHY Comcast, and the US, has lagged way behind in broadband speeds and availability.

At one time, it was thought no one would ever “need” more than 640k of working memory space.

At one time, it was thought that there would only be a need for 6 computers in the entire *world*.

At one time, it was believed the speed of sound couldn’t be broken.

It is never about the needs of *today* and everyone needs to get it through their head that this kind of thinking leads to stagnation and technological backwardation.

Anonymous Coward says:

2GB to the modem, 200MB to your computer?

The issue of storing data that fast has already been raised: use SSD, or RAID, or something.

What about the Modem? What about your network card?

Before you plunk down a huge contract commitment, you might want to make sure your computer is cowboy enough for that hat.

TasMot (profile) says:

Re: 2GB to the modem, 200MB to your computer?

Not to over-generalize, but normally, 2 GB to one computer is overkill when connecting to the Internet. The only time I’ve been able to utilize a large portion of the 1 GB connections I have in my house are on computer to computer transfers when using SSDs or large RAID arrays. However; streaming video or multiple simultaneous uploads and downloads can certainly use a large portion of that 2 GB. It does mean that the subscriber is going to need a better than typical home use switch. They are going to need a “Smart” or “Managed” switch with a true upload port that is greater than 1 GB. Then, each user gets a 1 GB connection and the switch has an upload port that is the “Up To” 2 GB that Comcast will never deliver after the first few speed test after the installation.

Andrew D. Todd (user link) says:

The Cost Is Not Really Out Of Line, But There Is Too Much Focus On High-End Service For A Few People.

There is not a particularly close relationship between internet connection speed and cost. Most of the money to install a subscriber loop cable, say, about 95%, goes to the installation, not to the cable, and it doesn’t much matter what kind of cable. What does matter is that a lineworker is up on a telephone pole, and if he falls, he may be badly hurt. Again, the capacity of an optical fiber is so great, and a cable can contain many optical fibers, that, short of an undersea cable, the capacity is practically unlimited. The backbone, of course, is trivial compared to the subscriber loop. Google will have little or no difficulty in immediately offering ten gigabits for its previous price, just to say Nyaa, Nyaa, Nyaa.

As I understand it, Comcast is proposing to charge about $8000 for a two-year contract, which involves building a new subscriber loop, and Comcast expects to recover the capital cost in that time. Comcast’s quoted rate for new installations is now twenty dollars per foot. On that basis, $8000 would work out to 400 feet. That doesn’t sound an unreasonable distance for a subscriber loop.

The point of unfairness is that, having paid his $8000, the subscriber does not get ownership of the 400 foot cable, and cannot use it with some other service provider. It’s a case of “heads, I win, tails, you lose.” The customer takes the financial risk of a new installation, but does not get the right to use it for free once it is paid for. In my family, we once spent nearly that much money for a single desktop computer, a PC AT back in 1984? when it first came out. The thing was powerful enough to run LISP and PROLOG, and could be used for artificial intelligence research. The results of the research were mostly negative, in that a lot of algorithms turned out not to converge. But once we had had bought the machine, IBM did not go on charging so much a month.

There simply isn’t a satisfactory use-case for a Gigabit as against, say, 20-50 megabits, and if you go about it the right way, you can get 20-50 megabits out of existing copper infrastructure, which is already in the ground, and which is already paid for. That said, there is no assurance that a Comcast subscriber would be willing to go on paying a premium price beyond the contract period, or that a subsequent occupant would be interested, or that neighbors would also want to adopt Gigabit. Comcast wants to make money from its existing network, not to build a whole new network on a speculative basis.

There have been a couple of cases in the press involving IT workers who wanted to telecommute from places far out in the country, and could not get sufficiently fast internet access. These cases are a bit suspect. No one can examine and manipulate, say, fifty gigabytes directly. You have to have software tools, and these software tools can be designed to operate by remote control, on a computer located in such a way as to have fast internet access. The remote-control connection involves manageable quantities of data. The first megabit is the one which matters the most, and after that, successive levels of diminishing returns set in. The criticisms we should be making about telephone and cable companies should have to do with the terms on which they provide (or fail to provide) the first megabit. What we should be complaining about is that the first thirty or forty dollars a month, spent on telephone or cable, provides essentially nothing in the way of internet access.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: The Cost Is Not Really Out Of Line, But There Is Too Much Focus On High-End Service For A Few People.

No one can examine and manipulate, say, fifty gigabytes directly.

How many 4k channels can a video producer use, when they are working with remote actors in front of green screen? (Note, neither the producer or the actors need to be professionals.)

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Re: Re: The Cost Is Not Really Out Of Line, But There Is Too Much Focus On High-End Service For A Few People.

I agree.

I’ve worked on some research reports on video editing companies, and their data transport demand.

The pro post-production media shops almost all locate around (within hundreds of yards from) the key telecom “peering points” like One Wilshire Blvd. in Los Angeles. They do this because they want to tap in “mainline” that bandwidth. Also, that proximity allows upgrading with minimal trenching.

So, the answer is: they can use a heck of a lot of bandwidth. So, as consumers start to do that kind of work as a hobby, perhaps they could also use the bandwidth.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: The Cost Is Not Really Out Of Line, But There Is Too Much Focus On High-End Service For A Few People.

So, as consumers start to do that kind of work as a hobby, perhaps they could also use the bandwidth.

There is no perhaps, and such technology also allows for a distributed render farm. The tools to create videos exist, i.e. Blender, and give people the bandwidth and they will be able to use the tools for more substantial works.

Andrew D. Todd (user link) says:

Re: Re: The Cost Is Not Really Out Of Line, But There Is Too Much Focus On High-End Service For A Few People.

Well, that’s an example of what I was talking about. The whole idea of greenscreen is that you process the image, so as to remove the green-screen areas, and replace them with uniform blanks. Uniform blanks can be losslessly compressed to an almost infinite degree, eg. “here is a region of 259 by 524 pixels, starting at 412, 764, all 0 blue, 0 green, 0 red, and 0 opacity,” or in compact form, sixteen bytes. You don’t need a megabyte to store that message. Now, the processing should happen as close as possible to the camera, so that only useful information gets sent on.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: The Cost Is Not Really Out Of Line, But There Is Too Much Focus On High-End Service For A Few People.

And when they go close up to a face, almost full bandwidth is required, as it is also required for support functions, like getting back the results of renders. While people not use a high bandwidth all of the time, it is very useful for intermittent high data rate demands.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: The Cost Is Not Really Out Of Line, But There Is Too Much Focus On High-End Service For A Few People.

“There have been a couple of cases in the press involving IT workers who wanted to telecommute from places far out in the country, and could not get sufficiently fast internet access.”

That’s why you should always check what kind of service is available someplace before moving there. That’s just basic due diligence.

I don’t have much sympathy for people who move out to the country and then demand that infrastructure be built out to them at someone else’s cost as if though they are somehow entitled to it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: The Cost Is Not Really Out Of Line, But There Is Too Much Focus On High-End Service For A Few People.

lets put it this way, if people did not live out in the country, those of you who live people in the city would starve, so it worth investing some money in supporting such communities, and letting them have some of the benefits of civilization.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: The Cost Is Not Really Out Of Line, But There Is Too Much Focus On High-End Service For A Few People.

“That’s why you should always check what kind of service is available someplace before moving there. That’s just basic due diligence”

It’s also impossible.

Every time I’ve done a check before a move, I discovered later that I was lied to about the available service.

Every. Single. Time.

Anonymous Coward says:

“actual speeds vary”…in other words it’s “upto 2gbps”…which in real terms will be somewhere between 4mbps and 8mbps.

Probably also has a 5gb cap hidden there somewhere, so even if you somehow manage more than Comcast’s usual shitty speeds (slowest overall ISP on earth compared to potential speed of its network) you’ll burn through the 5gb cap by watching a single 1080p/4k streamed movie.

Anonymous Coward says:

Lets has on it’s side a ton of customers (when polled 85% of which said due to quality of service/product they’d leave if there was any alternative).

They have the lowest speed of ANY ISP on the planet relative to the total potential speed of their network.

They’ve been voted worst company IN AMERICA multiple times.

Regularly hires ex-cons / rapists/paedophiles and fails to run ANY sort of background checks before sending them out to customers homes (where children may be present)

Why the hell aren’t their investors running for the hills given that the anti-competitive/antitrust monopoly thats kept them alive will break sooner or later and Comcast will BUUUUUUURRRRN to the ground in well-deserved flames.

andy says:


The only way America is going to have fibre to every home is when the government starts taking control of all fibre networks.

comcast is doing as little as possible to retain customers and will continue doing so as the profit is all they are interested in if they were interested in providing a service their customer service would not be the mess it is right now.

The government needs to take over the big 5 isps and combine them to create a new government department of communications.

And when shareholders scram at their losses the government can use their other illegal practices of ignoring laws or twisting them to support their ideals and sue them for slandering the government.

John85851 (profile) says:

Minimum 2 year agreement

It’s interesting that no one seems to blink at minimum agreements lasting for years. I guess we’re all so used to it and we don’t care.

But here’s a question: if Comcast is a monopoly in any given area and they’re the only ones offering high-speed service (okay, that’s another monopoly), then there’s no other place someone can go for service. So why the minimum 2 year agreement? If a company has the best product (or the only product) then it shouldn’t be afraid if people cancel.

So the only reason to have minimum agreements is because they know a certain percentage of people will get poor service or get tired of paying the monthly fees. For these people, the choice it to keep paying every month or pay the termination fee. Either way, the company keeps making money.

texas_cajun (profile) says:

Beware Comcast Data Rates

We have found, still to this date, the Comcast throttles our UDP traffic. We subscribe to two “Business Class Internet” 100x20Mbps paths that are throttle to 20Mbps for all UDP based IPSEC traffic. Moving traffic to another carrier immediately resolves the throughput issues, so does masking the VPN traffic as TCP over port 80. It is extremely sad that a carrier has to be so petty and unethical in their continued violation of Net Neutrality!

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