Comcast can’t stop talking about all the upgrades it has planned for its internet service. An executive recently told the press that it plans to upgrade its entire network to the DOCSIS 3.1 standard, a move that would enable gigabit speeds for all Comcast customers. Testing is underway now, and it should be done in two years.
Or at least that’s what Comcast is saying. “We want to get it across the footprint very quickly,” said Robert Howald, Comcast’s VP of network architecture. “We’re shooting for two years.” Though he admitted it might take three.
Nevertheless, we’re not talking about upgrading some software on some routers here. The switch to DOCSIS 3.1 would require new modems for a bulk—if not all—of Comcast’s 22.5 million subscribers, not to mention backend upgrades at local cable plants. While the new technology does offer more efficient connections, it’s also unclear if cable customers will want to pay the high prices that Comcast will likely charge for the gigabit service. Comcast currently offers 2Gbps service in a few markets for $300 a month plus up to $1,000 in installation fees.
Again, we’ll believe it when we see it. And as more local governments step in and upend the natural monopolies that telecom giants like Comcast and Time Warner Cable have on the broadband business, we’re bound to see lots of lofty promises. Both AT&T and Verizon have considered joining the gigabit internet race, and Google appears to be in the lead with its gigabit Fiber service expanding to 34 cities nationwide.
There’s more talk than action happening in the superfast internet game as it stands. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. At least someone’s doing something about America’s slow internet.
Illustration by Michael Hession