June 1, 2006 12:19 PM PDT

Comcast gives broadband users a speed boost

Comcast, the largest cable provider in the U.S., will give customers of its broadband service a free boost on downloads.

The company confirmed Thursday that customers in New England are already using the new feature, which doubles download speeds for subscribers when extra capacity is available on the network

Called PowerBoost, the new feature is available free to customers who already subscribe to the company's 6mbps and 8mbps services. It will be deployed throughout the rest of Comcast's region later this year and, when available, increase speeds to 12Mbps and 16Mbps.

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A Comcast official said the company is not boosting speeds for particular applications or content, a situation that would likely get Comcast into hot water with Net neutrality proponents, who want network operators to provide the same level of service to all content providers on the Net. Instead it's supercharging speeds for all customers downloading any content--whether it's music, e-mail, pictures or movies--when the network is not being used at maximum capacity.

"The Comcast network is really content-agnostic," said company spokeswoman Jeanne Russo. "We hope the PowerBoost feature will provide a competitive advantage for us with customers who are interested in doing a lot with their broadband connections."

Customers may not even notice the bandwidth boost if they're downloading smaller files such as text-based e-mails or simple Web pages with few graphics. But if they're downloading detailed pictures and videos, they'll likely see a big increase in speed, Russo said.

How is Comcast able to do this? Like most broadband service providers, Comcast has designed its network to guarantee speeds when usage levels are at their peak. Because the network is rarely maxed out, Comcast usually has excess capacity. PowerBoost allows Comcast customers to take advantage of the extra bandwidth when it's available. But when it's not, the networks still provides the lower guaranteed rates.

Unfortunately for customers who frequently upload pictures and videos, Comcast's bandwidth boost applies only to downloads. This may frustrate some consumers who say they are happy with the speed of their download service but would like to see faster uploads.

"Right now our customers say our current upstream speeds meet their needs," Russo said. "But we'll continue to monitor what our customers want, and PowerBoost for uploads could be something we offer later."

Cable operators and telephone companies have been ratcheting up download speeds of their services for the past few years. Comcast has increased the speed of its service four times in the past three years without any price increase to customers. And while upload speeds have increased incrementally as well, they haven't caught up to download speeds.

Cox Communications also said that it plans to give customers a taste of faster-speed services, using technology from a company called Camiant. The policy server product from Camiant allows Cox to temporarily increase bandwidth speeds on the fly for consumers interested in testing out the higher-speed service.

Cox has previously offered speed previews but couldn't provide speed increases to individual customers. Instead, it offered special speed increases to entire regions of its service area.

See more CNET content tagged:
Comcast Corp., Cox Communications Inc., bandwidth, capacity, broadband

10 comments

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Big deal -- and I call BS.
Considering that Comcast is still very expensive when compared to DSL, I'd much prefer to keep my current 6Mb connection with a price cuy. Okay, when I'm downloading the latest version of Solaris or the newest "Battlefield 2" patch, I want speed. But 99% of my Internet usage is not anywhere close to even the current 6Mb limit. I've actually considered getting Verizon 3Mb/768Kb DSL for $29 because of the few times that I max out my connection every month. I'll still get 768Kb up for gaming while saving close to $25 per month.

And exactly who does Comcast think they're fooling? This speed boost is CLEARLY meant to compete with FIOS, which Verizon is starting to really push. This has absolutely NOTHING to do with "extra capacity" or the fraudulent benevolence that Comcast is purporting to be showing.

Spare me the speed boost. You can keep me at 6M/768K. Just knock off $20/month instead.
Posted by JLBer (100 comments )
Reply Link Flag
That is why
You are correct to state this is becasue of FIOS.

Also, the occasional high bandwidth download (like Solaris ISO's) tend to use much less overall bandwidth than a PC infected with a virus or loaded with spyware that consistantly send many small packets.

As for the need for greater upload, while there are valid reasons for needing it, most of them tend to be stuff than would be against their TOS anyway.

Giving a few million PC's a 16 meg upload overnight could lead to trouble.
Posted by Dachi (797 comments )
Link Flag
Faster downloads? Who cares?!?!
I'm a Time Warner customer in Green Bay stuck at 384K up and hate it. Uploading something simple like pictures to Snapfish takes forever. Cable operators are highly lagging behind when it comes to upload speeds and this is making me start to consider DSL options which are typically 2x that of cable operators in this area.
Posted by cpresco (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
how is this really newsworthy?
i didnt know that you could turn a simple speed increase for an isp into an entire article. so comcast increased speeds for customers, whoop de doo. you dont need to have an exaggerated analytical approach to posting that... jeeze!
Posted by naterandrews (256 comments )
Reply Link Flag
FASTER UPLOADS
They are insane if they think that people don't want faster uploads.
Posted by chriswaco (16 comments )
Reply Link Flag
17.1 megabits per second
Thats the speed i just scored on my comcast 6 mbps commercial account.
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.bandwidthplace.com" target="_newWindow">http://www.bandwidthplace.com</a>

I'm in PA, so maybe they are doing this for business customers already or maybe this is just a goofy marketing tactic.

I have 2 * 6 mbps accounts, load balanced through a Xincom dual WAN router (that score was just for one WAN, both get about the same speed).

Can't beat those speeds for 200 bucks a month, even though uploads are only @ T1 speeds.

But...

FOIS is looking real good for uploads, once it is available in my area.
Posted by pcpimpster (31 comments )
Reply Link Flag
SBC DSL
I used to be jealous of my Comcast friends when I was on 1500/256 DSL, but within the past year I was upgraded to 3000/512 and just recently up to 6000/768....all for $27.99 a month as well.
Posted by csturdivant (68 comments )
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Not seeing a difference.
I pay for the extra speed (Previously 6Mbps) and now I'm supposed to have 8Mbps with a boost up to 16mbps. I'm not seeing this on the speed tests. Internetfrog.com does show 8mbps, but when I download files I'll usually get 400-500kbps. Shouldn't I bet getting 800kbps-1600kbps? Will my Comcast cable modem support these higher speeds? I had to get a new modem to make the jump from 4mbps to 6mbps.
Posted by WadeF (4 comments )
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I notice slight changes
I am downloading a torrent thats about 750MB, and a month ago it
would get maxium speeds of around 25kb/s - depending on how
many uploads/seeds there are, but lately, about every 10 min, it
jumps from that 25kb/s to almost 300kb/s and stays that way for
about 5 min, then slowly goes back down to 25. its a nice upgrade
considering i download a lot of these torrents, most of which use to
take 3 days to download, now take 2 hours at most.
love it.
Posted by kyler (30 comments )
Reply Link Flag
NICE!! Why are ppl complaining ITS FREE!!
I live in York, Pa. and they just took over suscom.net and I am glade they did!! Comcast Tech's are great! They wont cover up anything, if they know you have a know-how on how things kinda work. Anyway! This speed boost is a Good thing! Why are you complaining?? Its FREE.. I don't give much on Uploading.. Downloading is what we knead!! Good job Comcast. The ones that are complaining, don't have any clue..
Posted by Shaun8121 (1 comment )
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