August 5, 2003 3:51 PM PDT

Comcast to extend 3mbps trials

Comcast plans to expand consumer trials for a 3mbps high-speed Internet service, the latest step in the cable giant's effort to double the speed of its standard cable modem product.

The new 30-day trial will begin Thursday in Pittsburgh for subscribers who pay $42.95 a month on top of basic cable TV service. A separate 3mbps test is already under way in Knoxville, Tenn. A company representative would not comment on whether Comcast plans to eventually offer 3mbps service to all of its subscribers.

"The reason (for the trial) is to determine how the change affects the network, how users value increased speeds and to help us develop the broadband experience for the future," Comcast spokeswoman Sarah Eder said.

Eder declined to comment on whether 3mbps plans might be offered as a more expensive option to Comcast's standard service.

The trials highlight the ongoing features war between broadband competitors--in this case, Comcast's cable modems and Verizon Communications' DSL (digital subscriber line) service. Because of their overlapping markets, both companies have toyed with boosting service perks in an attempt to lure more customers.

DSL providers, namely Verizon and SBC Communications, have been slashing prices in hopes of attracting new customers and stealing cable subscribers from rivals.

In May, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts said in a speech that speed hikes would be one critical factor in differentiating service from that of competitors.

"We should not be satisfied with 1.5mbps of speed," Roberts said, referring to the standard download speed that Comcast offers.

Indeed, some cable providers are already offering faster broadband speeds. Cablevision Systems, which serves areas outside New York, averages 3.5mbps and has been clocked as fast as 6.3mbps for its download speed, according to Broadbandreports.com, a Web site that tracks industry trends. Comcast was clocked at speeds of 1.7mbps.

DSL companies typically offer lower speeds or charge higher prices for comparable service. Verizon, for example, charges download speeds of up to 768kbps for $34.99 a month. The company also offers a premium service that promises downloand speeds of up to 1.5mbps for $59.99.

 

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