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Cablevision has Fastest Broadband in the U.S.

Cablevision Systems announced that starting May 11, it will offer the nation's fastest home broadband service, Optimum Online Ultra, delivering 101 megabits (Mbps) downstream and 15Mbps upstream for a list price of $99.95 per month before fees and taxes, using the new DOCSIS 3.0 cable infrastructure standard.

"Optimum Online Ultra firmly solidifies Optimum as the fastest Internet service in the home, at work and through the air over Optimum Wi-Fi," said Tom Rutledge, Cablevision's chief operating officer, in a statement. The company is also increasing its wireless speeds to 3Mbps, which is faster than current mobile speeds but less than Wi-Fi is capable of delivering.

Still, Ultra won't make up for the lag in U.S. broadband. A report from Point-Topic earlier this month noted that although the U.S. leads the world in cable services, the highest speeds are in fiber, and about 80 percent of the world's residential fiber broadband is in Asia.

Around the world, from Amsterdam to Tokyo, fiber customers can get 100Mbps symmetrical speeds. Latvia's telco plans to deliver 500Mbps speeds by the end of the year, according to a Latvian blog.

In the U.S., however, Cablevision's (NYSE: CVC) 101Mbps Ultra will be faster than fiber. Verizon's (NYSE: VZ) FiOS, the company's fiber-based offering, which previously held the mainstream U.S. speed record, tops out at 50Mbps downstream and 20Mbps upstream. Other U.S. telcos offer slower speeds over fiber. Qwest's (NYSE: Q) service maxes out at 20Mbps downstream, and the Web site doesn't even mention upstream speeds. That's because in some cases, Qwest's upstream is less than 1Mbps.

What the people want

Verzion said that the announcement is clearly a response to FiOS and that it is inadequate. "Cablevision has been lagging behind FiOS Internet speeds for many years. As you know, DOCSIS gives them the chance to upgrade their speeds, but they do not deliver those speeds to all customers. They run out of capacity long before serving them," said Eric Rabe, Verizon spokesperson and vice president.

Verizon could roll out faster speeds if it wanted to, but customers don't want those speeds yet, he claimed. "We've had 50 Mbps service in all areas that we serve since last year, and we deliver it over a dedicated pipe that assures that customers get the speed they expect. The system we are deploying today has the capacity to deliver 400 Mbps. However, we have not seen market demand for more than the 50 Mbps we are currently offering. So this is essentially a parlor trick by Cablevision," said Rabe.

As long as we're talking residential customers, that's true, said Bruce Leichtman, president and principal analyst of Leichtman Research. He said that the offering will see virtually zero demand from consumers (except from hardcore users) but that it makes sense as an offering for business customers, especially for small business customers, many of whom are not in locations served by fiber.

Most home users remain stuck at slower broadband speeds, served neither by fiber nor by the fastest cable offerings. 1.5Mbps, the norm for most DSL and a few cable customers, is barely better than dial-up, ISP-Planet has argued. Call it "dial-up 2.0".

Late last year, Cisco published a report that said that of all the nations in the world, only Japan is prepared to deliver the services of the future.

Next page: Are customers satisfied with what they have?