Most residential Comcast Xfinity customers will soon have the ability to purchase gigabit Internet service through the cable provider in Seattle, Portland, and a handful of other cities.
The company today announced that its 1 Gigabit-per-second Internet service, which provides download speeds of 1 gigabit per second, will be available to customers in the Northwest in early 2017. The Bay Area, San Jose, Denver, Salt Lake City, Kansas City, Indianapolis, Knoxville, and Jacksonville will also have access around that time.
The gigabit speeds are enabled by DOCSIS 3.1 technology, which uses existing wiring that most people already have in their homes, Comcast said.
Comcast is already running trials of the service in Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, and Nashville.
“We have made significant technology and network deployments, which will allow us to deliver some of the fastest Internet speeds without our having to tear up streets or rewire a customer’s home,” Kyle McSlarrow, Regional Senior Vice President for Comcast in Washington, said in a statement.
Since May 2015, Comcast has already offered Gigabit Pro in Seattle, but that service runs through fiber and requires professional installation and equipment. The 1 Gigabit service only requires a DOCSIS 3.1 compatible cable modem, so anyone in Comcast’s service area is technically eligible.
And while Gigabit Pro costs nearly $300, the 1 Gigabit service will be cheaper. Comcast does not have specific pricing details yet, but with the Atlanta trial, the high-speed service costs $139.95 per month, or $70 per month for 36 months.
Comcast currently charges $89.95 per month for its fastest residential internet service in Seattle, “Blast! Pro,” which provides up to 100 Mbps (1 Gigabit is 10X the speed).
In a statement, Seattle Councilmember Bruce Harrell voiced his support. “Having access to one gigabit service will greatly benefit start-ups, businesses, and residents running a business from home,” he said. “Gigabit speeds will help maintain our global competitiveness as a high-tech city and will provide our consumers with more choices.”
CenturyLink began offering residential gigabit internet to Seattle-area customers in December 2014, but like Comcast’s Gigabit Pro, the service is only available in select neighborhoods. CenturyLink advertises gigabit Internet service at a promotional rate of $79.95 per month in Seattle. However, that rate requires a multi-year contract that bundles broadband service with a monthly phone plan, in addition to other fees that bring the total cost of the package to nearly $130 per month.
Wave Broadband is another private company that’s investing in gigabit service around Seattle, offering an $80 per month plan, but only to select apartment/condominium complexes and some residential areas.
The City of Seattle has also looked into the possibility of building its own fiber network, a move that would create a government-run utility to compete with existing providers. But last summer, a study commissioned by the City of Seattle determined that building a municipal gigabit fiber network would cost $480 million to $665 million, a project too costly for the city to take on without outside financing or a major partnership.
Then, this past November, the Seattle City Council voted against a $5 million municipal broadband pilot program.
Plans for public internet in Seattle have stagnated since the results of the study came out, but a new amendment to the Mayor’s Master Plan could reopen the conversation.
The idea of a municipal broadband network is not new to Seattle. The city commissioned studies in 2005, 2007, 2009, and 2011 that explored the possibility of city-owned Internet, but the financial burden has been a roadblock.
Seattle tried to partner with Cincinnati-based Gigabit Squared in 2013 after the company said it would bring gigabit Internet to thousands of Seattle residents. But that grand vision crumbled after Gigabit failed to raise enough money to implement a high-speed Internet network in 14 Seattle neighborhoods using the city’s dormant dark fiber network. Gigabit, which was ultimately sued by the City of Seattle for an unpaid bill, said it would offer 1 Gbps for $80 per month.
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray has taken steps to increase competition — and in theory drive down prices — by lowering regulatory hurdles to allow more providers to reach more of the city’s neighborhoods.
Comcast said it has invested $1 billion since 2010 to improve Internet speeds in Washington. The company was recently hit with a $100 million consumer protection lawsuit filed by Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson. It also today began rolling out its 1TB internet data usage limits to a large part of the U.S., including Washington, Oregon and California.