Comcast matches Verizon Fios speeds

Cable operator doubles download speeds of its fastest broadband service in four cities.

Comcast is increasing the speed of its broadband service in what looks like an attempt to keep pace with Verizon Communications' Fios service.

On Tuesday, the nation's largest cable operator confirmed it has doubled download speeds of its fastest broadband service in four cities: Reston, Va.; Sarasota, Fla.; Fort Wayne, Ind.; and Howard County, Md.

Comcast is automatically upgrading customers of its premiere broadband service to 16mbps (megabits per second) for downloads and 1mbps for uploads at a cost of $52.95 per month. Previously, Comcast had offered customers in these cities speeds of 8mbps downstream and 768kbps (kilobits per second) upstream for $52.95 per month.

The cities selected for the initial upgrade also happen to be those where Verizon Communications is offering its fiber to the home service, called Fios.

Verizon representatives said that Comcast's move to increase speeds is an attempt to match the Fios service.

"It's a reaction to Fios," said Bobbi Henson, a spokeswoman for Verizon. "Comcast sees the success we have been having, and they are trying to catch up."

Verizon's lowest tier of Fios service offers download speeds of up to 5mbps, with upload speeds of 2mbps for $39.95. For $49.95, consumers can get download speeds up to 15mbps with uploads of 2mbps, and for $199.95, customers can download at 30mbps and upload at 5mbps.

Comcast denies that it is raising speeds to compete with Verizon's Fios service. Instead, the company said it increased download speeds to test new applications it plans to offer its broadband customers.

"We chose to test this new high-speed service in markets that are competitive and where we know we have a high level of broadband penetration," said Jeanne Russo, a company spokeswoman. "Reston, Va., was one of the first places where we offered broadband service, and we have 70 percent market penetration there."

Last year, other cable companies introduced higher-speed services in Fios territory. Cox Communications boosted speeds in its Northern Virginia territory to 15mbps, and Adelphia Communications announced that it is raising speeds to 16mbps to residents in Leesburg, Va.

Verizon is becoming much more of a threat to cable companies in regions of the country where it has built its Fios network. Not only is Verizon able to offer very high-speed broadband, but it can offer a package that also includes TV service.

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