Comcast Says It Will Offer Super-Fast “Gigabit” Service This Year

Comcast Today: Plus, more about the competition from Sling TV.

Comcast’s Internet service is about to get blazingly fast, Gizmodo reports:

In an exciting if suspicious announcement today, Comcast, everybody’s least favorite company, just told an audience at CES that it would start offering home customers gigabit internet speeds in 2015.

That would be a huge improvement, since Comcast’s current “Extreme” plan only offers speeds up to 150 megabits per second. It remains unclear exactly how many customers would get Comcast’s new headline-grabbing gigabit offering. Comcast has been dangling the possibility of offering these speeds for a while. A couple years ago, it showcased the ability to achieve 3 Gb/s speeds on its network and announced last year that some of its customers would enjoy all fiber networks. It even trademarked a catchy name for a new service: “True Gig.”

So wait. Why suspicious?

All that said, Comcast has also argued that the average American doesn’t need superfast gigabit internet. That particular statement was a seemingly defensive swipe at Google Fiber and other startup ISPs offering much faster connections at lower prices. However, now that Comcast is preparing to take over the entire country if the proposed Time Warner deal goes through, the company is suddenly trying to act competitive. Which is probably an appropriate thing to dowhen being accused of anti-competitive behavior.

Ars Technica adds: “We asked Comcast what its gigabit service will cost and what the upload speeds will be, but the company said ‘that will come at a later date TBD.’”

Sling TV

On Tuesday, we told you about Sling TV and how — because it has ESPN — it might finally offer a cord-cuttng solution to let the masses start abandoning cable in favor of Internet-powered television.

Comcast exects are putting a brave face on, for now. FierceCable reports:

Speaking at Citigroup’s 2015 Internet, Media & Telecommunications Conference Tuesday, Comcast Cable  EVP and CEO Neil Smit said that while OTT offerings such as Sling TV are interesting, when coupled with the cost of a high-speed broadband connection, Sling TV’s cost is equivalent to a digital TV package from Comcast. “We offer a performance-based broadband product along with digital TV that includes ESPN and the broadcast networks for a price of $80,” Smit said. “If you compare that to the $20 Dish OTT package plus broadband at $67 per month, we are a lower price.” Comcast Cable EVP and CTO Tony Werner added: “It’s a higher price point for an inferior product.”

OTT, incidentally is industryspeak for “over-the-top content,” which basically refers to video services delivered through the Internet, outside cable channels.

The Hollywood Reporter, meanwhile, speculates that the new service will prompt cable companies like Comcast to fulfill the dreams of many customers and offer “a la carte” channel picking — pay for the channels you want to watch, don’t pay for the ones you don’t. (You won’t have access to those unpaid-for channels, either.)

MoffettNathanson analyst Craig Moffett also said in a report that “we don’t think Dish’s new service will take the world by storm.” But he argued that “this product will find a niche and that its pricing will be genuinely disruptive,” plus it “takes a meaningful step towards a la carte, at least of a sort.”

He explained: “Consumers now have the ability to craft their own bundle that might, just might, be “good enough.” Combining a basic entry broadband and broadcast only package with a Netflix subscription or a password-shared HBO Go service may give consumers enough content at a reasonable price to render the bigger [pay TV] bundles unattractive.”

It’s a brave new world for the cable industy.