July 1, 2005 12:52 PM PDT

Broadband speed war emerges

A broadband speed war is emerging as cable operators raise data rates in regions where Verizon Communications is selling its Fios fiber-to-the-home service.

In the past two months, cable operators have begun increasing download speeds on their broadband networks. It's little coincidence that these higher speeds are being rolled out in regions of the country where Verizon has begun offering its Fios service, which runs over a fiber network that reaches directly into people's homes.

"I wouldn't say that Verizon is leading us to offer faster speeds," said David Grabert, a spokesman for Cox Communications. "But the local competitive landscape is one variable we consider when developing our product offerings."

In May, Cox Communications boosted speeds in its Northern Virginia territory to 15mbps. It began offering a similar service in Rhode Island in June. On Thursday, Adelphia announced that it is raising speeds to 16mbps to residents in Leesburg, Va.

On Monday, Cablevision, which already has one of the fastest residential cable broadband networks in the country, announced it had demonstrated a 100mbps service over its existing cable infrastructure. The company has no immediate plans to offer a 100mbps service to residential customers, but it is offering it to business customers in Oyster Bay, on Long Island, N.Y.

"This is definitely a business service," said Wilt Hildenbrand, executive vice president of technology and engineering for Cablevision. "But it shows us where things could go in the future. This is the most capacity that anyone has gotten out of an existing cable network to date."

In each of the areas where cable companies have increased speeds, Verizon has just begun offering its Fios service, which the company claims can scale to 100mbps. Since last year, Verizon has spent billions of dollars digging up streets to lay the new fiber network in neighborhoods in half of the states where it provides local phone service. So far, it has the network hooked up in roughly 250 communities on the East Coast and in Texas.

"Fios is a serious competitive threat to the cable companies," said Mark Marchand, a spokesman for Verizon. "It's no surprise that they'd be increasing speeds to compete in the communities where we're deploying Fios."

The base plan for Fios offers download speeds of up to 5mbps, with an upload speed of 2mbps for $39.95. For $49.95, consumers can get download speeds up to 15mbps, and for $199.95, users can download at 30mbps and upload at 5mbps.

So far, at least Cox is staying competitive with Verizon on price. It's offering its 5mbps download with 2mbps upload service for $39.95 when bundled with its phone or video service. Its 15mbps service with 2mbps uploads costs $54.95 per month when part of a bundled package.

Pricing for Adelphia's 16mbps service isn't available yet. Cablevision also hasn't released pricing of its 100mbps business offering.

These super-speed broadband offerings seem to be more a bragging right than a true competitive advantage, since most customers don't need that much bandwidth. Verizon and Cox both admit that most of their customers subscribe to the 5mbps service.

But the higher-tier offering is important for technically savvy customers who want to download movies and music, they say. Adelphia claims that customers of its 16mbps service can download 100 songs--roughly 5mbps each--in approximately four minutes. The company claims the same transaction on a traditional DSL service would require 22 minutes.

"It's very important to have a range of offerings for different customers," Cox's Grabert said. "Some are more price-sensitive than others. And then there are gamers and people who want to download movies and music and are willing to pay more for the bandwidth to do it."

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i find that ironic
"It's very important to have a range of offerings for different customers," Cox's Grabert said. "Some are more price-sensitive than others. And then there are gamers and people who want to download movies and music and are willing to pay more for the bandwidth to do it."

Download movies and music?, for that kind of speed it almost sounds like an endorsement for P2P file swapping, i havent found much of any online Movie distrobution sites that were anything special and Music Distro's arent much better either.

"But the higher-tier offering is important for technically savvy customers who want to download movies and music, they say. Adelphia claims that customers of its 16mbps service can download 100 songs--roughly 5mbps each--in approximately four minutes. The company claims the same transaction on a traditional DSL service would require 22 minutes."

100 songs at once, given i wouldnt spend $100 a pop at Itunes just to satisfy the over bloated RIAA and im betting unless you work for the RIAA you wont be sitting there downloading $100 worth of music at once either. Dont get me wrong i do like it when speed wars gives use the consumer the better deals, but given everthing going on lately with all these copyright infringment cases, you will be limited on what you can download, i got broadband for file downloads that are too big for dialup not for faster loading web pages (ohhh more speed so my web pages load even more faster than before) sounds like fun - NOT!
Posted by (71 comments )
Reply Link Flag
i find that ironic
"It's very important to have a range of offerings for different customers," Cox's Grabert said. "Some are more price-sensitive than others. And then there are gamers and people who want to download movies and music and are willing to pay more for the bandwidth to do it."

Download movies and music?, for that kind of speed it almost sounds like an endorsement for P2P file swapping, i havent found much of any online Movie distrobution sites that were anything special and Music Distro's arent much better either.

"But the higher-tier offering is important for technically savvy customers who want to download movies and music, they say. Adelphia claims that customers of its 16mbps service can download 100 songs--roughly 5mbps each--in approximately four minutes. The company claims the same transaction on a traditional DSL service would require 22 minutes."

100 songs at once, given i wouldnt spend $100 a pop at Itunes just to satisfy the over bloated RIAA and im betting unless you work for the RIAA you wont be sitting there downloading $100 worth of music at once either. Dont get me wrong i do like it when speed wars gives use the consumer the better deals, but given everthing going on lately with all these copyright infringment cases, you will be limited on what you can download, i got broadband for file downloads that are too big for dialup not for faster loading web pages (ohhh more speed so my web pages load even more faster than before) sounds like fun - NOT!
Posted by (71 comments )
Reply Link Flag
millibits per second?
I find it funny that this article claims that Verizon and the cable companies are bragging over offering 15 or 100 millibits per second (mbps) data services. Even at 100 mbps it would take 10 seconds to transmit 1 bit, 80 seconds to transmit 1 byte. Yes, I know that they really meant megabits per second (Mbps), not mbps, but you would think that CNET editors would know the difference.
Posted by JLem (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Songs are mbps in size?
Same kind of thing:

The editors should know better than to rate the size of a file in mbps, Mbps, kbps, etc. It should be a simple thing keep the measurement of the size of a file correct, and distinguished from the speed of transfer.
Posted by (9 comments )
Link Flag
millibits per second?
I find it funny that this article claims that Verizon and the cable companies are bragging over offering 15 or 100 millibits per second (mbps) data services. Even at 100 mbps it would take 10 seconds to transmit 1 bit, 80 seconds to transmit 1 byte. Yes, I know that they really meant megabits per second (Mbps), not mbps, but you would think that CNET editors would know the difference.
Posted by JLem (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Songs are mbps in size?
Same kind of thing:

The editors should know better than to rate the size of a file in mbps, Mbps, kbps, etc. It should be a simple thing keep the measurement of the size of a file correct, and distinguished from the speed of transfer.
Posted by (9 comments )
Link Flag
Bandwidth metering - coming soon to your home?
It won't be too long before every home has fiber optic lines portaled into use.
And if all was fair and right with the world, we would have great choice in how we utilize out digital capability, the most important being bandwidth metering, meaning you pay for what you use. The business and pricing model for this would indicate that usage would be like telephone service pay-per-call; or, even long distance service pricing-distance x time, with an infrastructure cost-recovery factor. Even an "always on" business pricing model will work. Imagine a service for which the technology is CURRENTLY AVAILABLE, that allows you to "check in" on your house, the temperature, the coffee pot, the food in the microwave waiting to be cooked when you instruct it to be, the video monitoring of the pool and the nanny, the exterior monitoring of your driveway, doors and windows, the security system for intrusion, medical emergencies for gramdma, fire, water flooding , and a thousand more services and products we haven't even thought of yet. How about watching any movie ever made, any TV show, any instructional or how-to video, Anytime, Anywhere, Anyplace? Any radio broadcast? Live events at a reasonable price? Brand new movies at home insted of the theater? And lots, lots more.
Do you really think we'll see all this in a reasonable time without the forced allowance of competitive access to the last mile?
The problem is that the cable and telephone companies have purchased the right (with political contributions) to "freeze out" competitor access to the "last mile" restricting competitively priced offerings of services that might undercut the monopoly pricing of current providers.
As a consumer I am just fed up with everything that I want or need being controlled by greedy politicians and companies.
The excuse of encouraging innovation is just laughable, since we all know that the greatest amount of innovation is encouraged by strenuous, vigorous,and open, repeat OPEN, free market comnpetition.
I encourage all of you who are interested in a free marketplace to call, write, email, fax,and vote regarding this issue.Insist that local and national legislators and regulators force open and free access to all types of communications that are utilized by consumers, by those who want to offer competitive products and services.
The real key to increasing innovation and lowering prices is Open Access to the last mile which allows competitors to create and offer a wide range of services.
Only then will we have the widest choices at the most competitive prices.
Posted by bdennis410 (175 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Personally....
I dont think metered will fly, i believe most isp's know that when they start to charge on a metered basis they stand to lose more customer's than gain to other isp's that offer one flat fee per month and more especially with alot of broadband services wanting to create the interactive living room with internet based TV & phone service it just doesnt seem like a viable option, after all the one flat fee rate that voip offers is what hurt ma bell and company and made them rethink about broadband phone service.
Also if im reading into other reports correctly it wouldnt seem to fit into the US Gov plan's to provide internet service to low income family's.
Im on Sprint DSL which is both my phone service and Broadband internet access and i do believe they know if they metered my dsl like they do my phone then they just lost a customer which is what they do not want.
Posted by (71 comments )
Link Flag
Just so you know
I love the list of cool apps you mention for use in the home but fiber is not required to do this. It's not likely that fiber will be pulled to many more homes than Verizon projects, remember Verizon had to do something different based on the condition of their deteriorating copper networks so they opted for the long term (at a very high cost I might add). Other telephone companies have done a good job of maintaining their copper nets and thus for existing homes are leveraging an already existing asset that is in good shape. It's not likely cable operators will pull fiber to the home and abandon the networks they have as well. Most of the cost is in the labor to pull fiber deeper and not the equipment or the glass. Cable has a lot of life left and is not limited to the mere pittance that cable is using today. At the end of the day I don't care if it is fiber, coax, radio wave or what getting the service to the side of my home; like you I just want the service.
Posted by kenwilli (7 comments )
Link Flag
Bandwidth metering - coming soon to your home?
It won't be too long before every home has fiber optic lines portaled into use.
And if all was fair and right with the world, we would have great choice in how we utilize out digital capability, the most important being bandwidth metering, meaning you pay for what you use. The business and pricing model for this would indicate that usage would be like telephone service pay-per-call; or, even long distance service pricing-distance x time, with an infrastructure cost-recovery factor. Even an "always on" business pricing model will work. Imagine a service for which the technology is CURRENTLY AVAILABLE, that allows you to "check in" on your house, the temperature, the coffee pot, the food in the microwave waiting to be cooked when you instruct it to be, the video monitoring of the pool and the nanny, the exterior monitoring of your driveway, doors and windows, the security system for intrusion, medical emergencies for gramdma, fire, water flooding , and a thousand more services and products we haven't even thought of yet. How about watching any movie ever made, any TV show, any instructional or how-to video, Anytime, Anywhere, Anyplace? Any radio broadcast? Live events at a reasonable price? Brand new movies at home insted of the theater? And lots, lots more.
Do you really think we'll see all this in a reasonable time without the forced allowance of competitive access to the last mile?
The problem is that the cable and telephone companies have purchased the right (with political contributions) to "freeze out" competitor access to the "last mile" restricting competitively priced offerings of services that might undercut the monopoly pricing of current providers.
As a consumer I am just fed up with everything that I want or need being controlled by greedy politicians and companies.
The excuse of encouraging innovation is just laughable, since we all know that the greatest amount of innovation is encouraged by strenuous, vigorous,and open, repeat OPEN, free market comnpetition.
I encourage all of you who are interested in a free marketplace to call, write, email, fax,and vote regarding this issue.Insist that local and national legislators and regulators force open and free access to all types of communications that are utilized by consumers, by those who want to offer competitive products and services.
The real key to increasing innovation and lowering prices is Open Access to the last mile which allows competitors to create and offer a wide range of services.
Only then will we have the widest choices at the most competitive prices.
Posted by bdennis410 (175 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Personally....
I dont think metered will fly, i believe most isp's know that when they start to charge on a metered basis they stand to lose more customer's than gain to other isp's that offer one flat fee per month and more especially with alot of broadband services wanting to create the interactive living room with internet based TV & phone service it just doesnt seem like a viable option, after all the one flat fee rate that voip offers is what hurt ma bell and company and made them rethink about broadband phone service.
Also if im reading into other reports correctly it wouldnt seem to fit into the US Gov plan's to provide internet service to low income family's.
Im on Sprint DSL which is both my phone service and Broadband internet access and i do believe they know if they metered my dsl like they do my phone then they just lost a customer which is what they do not want.
Posted by (71 comments )
Link Flag
Just so you know
I love the list of cool apps you mention for use in the home but fiber is not required to do this. It's not likely that fiber will be pulled to many more homes than Verizon projects, remember Verizon had to do something different based on the condition of their deteriorating copper networks so they opted for the long term (at a very high cost I might add). Other telephone companies have done a good job of maintaining their copper nets and thus for existing homes are leveraging an already existing asset that is in good shape. It's not likely cable operators will pull fiber to the home and abandon the networks they have as well. Most of the cost is in the labor to pull fiber deeper and not the equipment or the glass. Cable has a lot of life left and is not limited to the mere pittance that cable is using today. At the end of the day I don't care if it is fiber, coax, radio wave or what getting the service to the side of my home; like you I just want the service.
Posted by kenwilli (7 comments )
Link Flag
Lack of good broadband...
The nice thing about FiOS is the upload speed.
One thing that providers don't seem to get is
that the value of their product lies in the
ability to serve information, not to download it.
People are starting to get REALLY frustrated at
the stuff that passes for broadband.

Sure, downloading a movies is great, but they are
presuming that you are downloading illicit movies
(pirates/bootlegs). What of those that are trying
to share home movies and amateur cinema? How many
people have digital camcorders these days? Well,
with the poor upload speeds you get, sharing the
videos is all but impossible.

Customers are connecting to the net with hundreds
of gigabytes of disk space, filled with their own
content yearning to be free, but the bandwidth is
too meager to make it practical to share the big
stuff -- even if the terms of service permit it.
FiOS is a good example of a service completely
hobbled by it's terms of service, which prohibit
running any software that accepts an inbound
connection, including instant messaging software,
video conferencing software, peer-to-peer (which,
despite evangelists objects is perfectly legal
and ideal for distributing your own content),
desktop access (GoToMyPC, VNC, X11, etc.), and so
on.

Broadband providers in the USA are extremely
short-sighted and consistently cripple their
systems and undermine the value of their product
with all sorts of ludicrous policies. One has to
wonder if they don't get it, or if they are
pressured by the media industry to develop the
Internet as a broadcast-only medium with
traditional industry being the sole supplier (the
original AOL model). I mean, Verizon even touts
MSN Premium as part of their service as if it's a
value-add to their broadband service -- how
clueless could they be?
Posted by Gleeplewinky (289 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Or one more problem.....
...their networks may not support high upstream bandwidth apps so they try to discourage them. Fios and Cable are very assymmetric in nature, presuming that the customer wants to read email and surf the web, but as you suggest there IS much content and some very good applications that need higher upstream bandwidth. I would much rather see less emphasis on the download speed and some interest in increasing the upstream capacity. For goodness sake, how fast does a download need to be?
Posted by kenwilli (7 comments )
Link Flag
Lack of good broadband...
The nice thing about FiOS is the upload speed.
One thing that providers don't seem to get is
that the value of their product lies in the
ability to serve information, not to download it.
People are starting to get REALLY frustrated at
the stuff that passes for broadband.

Sure, downloading a movies is great, but they are
presuming that you are downloading illicit movies
(pirates/bootlegs). What of those that are trying
to share home movies and amateur cinema? How many
people have digital camcorders these days? Well,
with the poor upload speeds you get, sharing the
videos is all but impossible.

Customers are connecting to the net with hundreds
of gigabytes of disk space, filled with their own
content yearning to be free, but the bandwidth is
too meager to make it practical to share the big
stuff -- even if the terms of service permit it.
FiOS is a good example of a service completely
hobbled by it's terms of service, which prohibit
running any software that accepts an inbound
connection, including instant messaging software,
video conferencing software, peer-to-peer (which,
despite evangelists objects is perfectly legal
and ideal for distributing your own content),
desktop access (GoToMyPC, VNC, X11, etc.), and so
on.

Broadband providers in the USA are extremely
short-sighted and consistently cripple their
systems and undermine the value of their product
with all sorts of ludicrous policies. One has to
wonder if they don't get it, or if they are
pressured by the media industry to develop the
Internet as a broadcast-only medium with
traditional industry being the sole supplier (the
original AOL model). I mean, Verizon even touts
MSN Premium as part of their service as if it's a
value-add to their broadband service -- how
clueless could they be?
Posted by Gleeplewinky (289 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Or one more problem.....
...their networks may not support high upstream bandwidth apps so they try to discourage them. Fios and Cable are very assymmetric in nature, presuming that the customer wants to read email and surf the web, but as you suggest there IS much content and some very good applications that need higher upstream bandwidth. I would much rather see less emphasis on the download speed and some interest in increasing the upstream capacity. For goodness sake, how fast does a download need to be?
Posted by kenwilli (7 comments )
Link Flag
 

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