Comcast has begun (opens in new tab) the long and slow process of upgrading its copper-based networks to Fiber Optic systems. Although a 2 Gbps connection will be available from this fiber network, Comcast has priced the service, called Gigabit Pro, at $299 per month, making it a completely unrealistic Internet service for the majority of users.
The service is available in select areas in seven states. To be eligible to purchase this service, you must live within one-third of a mile from the established fiber network. According to the terms of service, users who sign up for the service must agree to a minimum two year term agreement. Installation of the service will take 6 to 8 weeks (or more) to complete, with up to a $500 installation fee, in addition to up to a $500 activation fee. Additional equipment, taxes, fees and other extra charges also apply. After the setup, Comcast stated that users are limited to a single outlet, and the actual speed of the service is not guaranteed.
As you can tell by the terms of agreement, Comcast's fiber network is outrageously expensive, and not really a viable option for many. Overall, the price wouldn't be so bad if this was part of a complete bundle of services including TV and telephone, but the Gigabit Pro network is only available in standalone packages. If you want Comcast for your TV and phone service, you will need to purchase the services for additional monthly fees.
Though this is expensive for customers, it seems like it would be great for businesses needing a faster Internet connection, but unfortunately Comcast has limited the service to residential customers only.
Still, despite the cost, Comcast has some strong points to help attract customers. First, it is the fastest Internet available to users, with upload and download speeds of 2 Gbps. Other fiber networks like Google Fiber currently available top out at 1 Gbps, so Comcast has a performance advantage.
Also, thanks to the large size of the company, Comcast has been able to roll out this network to more cities at once.
Comcast will likely have a difficult time selling its service in Chattanooga, Tennessee and Atlanta, Georgia, though. In Chattanooga, a municipal ISP offers fiber Internet at 1 Gbps, a TV package, and phone service all for $132.82 a month. Similarly, in Atlanta, Google is developing a new branch of its Fiber network that offers service similar to that in Chattanooga for $130.
Despite difficulties in these cities, most areas that Comcast is offering this service aren't competing with fiber networks, and thus Comcast is unopposed for this level of service.
It is interesting to see that the timing of this upgrade comes just a few months after the FCC passed new legislation that protects and promotes municipal ISPs. Although there are only a handful of municipal broadband networks in the United States, the much faster Internet speed and lower costs are the envy of many.
If municipal broadband networks keep growing in number, it would seriously undermine the power of larger ISPs such as Comcast, and that's likely what motivated Comcast to develop its fiber network this year. Although the price isn't very competitive, it will still likely slow the growth of municipal networks in the cities it spreads to with its fast 2 Gbps service.
However, this move by Comcast could encourage other ISPs to upgrade their networks and lead to a competitive fiber network.