Comcast Offers Speedier Internet Access

Comcast Corp is juicing up its high-speed Internet access in some of its big markets, with plans to offer speedier connections to all of its customers during the next two years.

Comcast plans to offer two access speeds for home users as well as one new speed for business customers, the Philadelphia-based cable television and Internet service provider said on Wednesday.

The new speeds are designed to give Comcast’s customers quicker access to the bulkier chunks of information over the Internet, such as videos, games and large software programs, and to compete with phone companies’ offerings.

Comcast will offer the services, based on a technology called “Docsis 3.0,” in the Boston region and southern New Hampshire and parts of Philadelphia and New Jersey. It has tested one of the services in the Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota area, for several months.

It plans to reach more than 10 big markets and will be made available to about 10 million homes and businesses in the next few months. It wants to make them available to all 50 million homes that it covers by the end of 2010, said Mitch Bowling, senior vice president and general manager of Comcast Online Services.

The “Extreme 50” service will cost $139.95 a month and offer up to 50 megabits per second (Mbps) of “downstream” speed, which refers to the flow of information into the user’s computer. Most Comcast customers currently get speeds of 6 or 8 Mbps. Upstream speed for the new service will be as high as 10 Mbps.

“Ultra” service will cost $62.95 per month and offer up to 22 Mbps downstream and up to 5 Mbps upstream, Comcast said.

Those advertised services sometimes are not available to every customer because traffic on Internet connections and servers can get backed up sometimes.

“The Internet is a best-effort service,” Bowling said. “We can’t control exactly what happens in every scenario.”

The 50 Mbps speed is designed to match that of phone companies such as Verizon Communications, which offers the “FiOS” service.

“The reality is, the Verizon FiOS footprint is still quite limited,” said Sanford C. Bernstein cable analyst Craig Moffett. “The availability of Docsis will almost certainly overtake the availability of FiOS as measured by the number of homes passed.” That number is about 9 million, Moffett said.

In addition, Comcast is upgrading at no charge its “Performance” and “Performance Plus” services to double their speeds to 12 and 16 Mbps.

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