Comcast revs up downloads

Cable modem operator bumps up the speeds for receiving data but keeps prices and data-sending capabilities the same.

Cable modem operator Comcast is bumping up the speeds at which its broadband subscribers can receive data.

The company announced Tuesday that it would increase the downstream speeds of its basic and premium residential broadband services. The basic service will jump to 6 megabits per second from 4mbps. The premium service will rise to 8mbps from 6mbps. Upstream, or data-sending, speeds will remain the same: 384kbps for the basic service, 768kbps for the premium.

Prices for the services will also remain the same. Customers of the basic plan will pay $42.95 when subscribing to a bundle that includes Comcast's video offering. The premium service will cost $52.95 when video is included in the package.

Comcast will begin upgrading the services to the higher speeds next week in eastern and central Pennsylvania, New England, New Jersey, Maryland, Michigan and Washington, D.C. It expects to complete the upgrades in all of its markets by the end of the summer. Upgrades will happen automatically, so customers aren't required to reboot their modems, said Jeanne Russo, a company spokeswoman.

At least two other cable providers have also recently upgraded speeds on their broadband offerings. Adelphia increased its download speed to 16mbps in its Northern Virginia territory, and Cox Communications increased its download speed to 15mbps in some of its territories. These speed increases seemed to be in response to Verizon's new Fios service, which uses fiber connections directly to people's homes and promises to allow for speeds of up to 30mbps.

Comcast, however, said its speed increase is not in response to new competition from Verizon, but rather is part of the company's regularly scheduled upgrades. Comcast has increased speeds on its network three times since October 2003.

"If (you) look at our history, we upgrade the speed of our network on a regular basis," Russo said. "Even at the 4mbps speed, we are faster than DSL."

Russo said Comcast plans to continue to add value for customers over the next 12 to 18 months by offering new services to those who subscribe to both its high-speed Internet and cable television services. The company will add remote recording capability through its Comcast.net portal to allow customers to record television shows on its digital video recorder. Comcast also plans to offer caller ID service for customers who subscribe to its high-speed data, television and phone services.

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