UPDATED: Comcast Bringing Next-Gen Internet Service To Chicago

Image courtesy of cftarnase

UPDATE: Comcast now tells Consumerist that Chicago-area customers will indeed be able to get the lower, $70/month rate, but they will have to phone the company to get it (once their neighborhood has been upgraded to the next-gen service, of course).


Back in February, Comcast announced that it was going to launch its next-generation in a handful of cities. Customers in the first two markets — Atlanta and Nashville — were able to get this high-speed option for a reasonable $70/month, but it looks like Chicago residents will have to pay twice that amount.

For those not familiar with DOCSIS 3.1, it’s a new standard for delivering data over coaxial cable lines that allows companies to send data at speeds faster than most current fiberoptic connections but without having to build an entirely new network.

For the cable company, that means it doesn’t have to spend a fortune or time on replacing cable lines or running new fiber lines next to the old lines to service two different types of subscriber. For the end-user, it simply requires a new modem to receive the higher-speed connection.

Which makes sense that when Comcast announced rollouts of DOCSIS 3.1 in Atlanta and Nashville, it offered new customers a rate of $70/month if they agreed to a 3-year contract. There was also a no-contract option for $140.

However, today’s announcement about Chicago only mentions the $139/month rate. It is still a no-contract rate, but there is no discount for those willing to agree to a three-year deal.

Comcast says it will “test promotional pricing,” but gives no indication of what that will be. Additionally, the Atlanta and Nashville $70/month rate was not described as promotional, but as the given rate for people who signed the 36-month contract.

We’ve asked Comcast to explain why it is charging double to Chicagoans but have yet to hear a response. However, we have a pretty good idea why the Windy City is getting a cruddy deal from Kabletown.

[UPDATE: Comcast has sent the following statement regarding the pricing in Chicago — “As these are advanced consumer trials, we are testing different prices and promotions in different markets.”]

See, Atlanta and Nashville are cities where Comcast must compete with high-speed, affordable services from both Google Fiber and AT&T’s GigaPower. It’s not a coincidence that the going rate for these competing broadband providers in Atlanta and Nashville is also $70/month.

Meanwhile, Google Fiber only lists Chicago as a “potential” Fiber city (and the company seems to be having second thoughts about providing landline-based broadband in general), so that’s one competitor gone.

AT&T’s GigaPower is being rolled out in Chicago, but as the company has done in other markets where it lacks competition, AT&T does not offer a lower rate.

That means that the only high-speed competition that Comcast faces in Chicago is from AT&T, at $90/month; $20 more than the telecom company charges in the other markets.

(NOTE: This story originally quoted the GigaPower price in Chicago as $110/month; that was the rate at launch, but it has since been dropped to $90/month).

What About Philly?

I ask this not just because I live in Philadelphia and can see the Eye of Sauron Comcast HQ tower from my roof, but because the company made a huge deal about doing its first proof-of-concept demo for DOCSIS 3.1 in Philadelphia.

When Comcast first announced that Atlanta and Nashville would be the first two markets for the next-gen service — followed by Chicago, Detroit, and Miami — we asked the company why Philly had been left off that list, when it’s a city in dire need of affordable high-speed connections. We were only told that announcements on additional markets would be forthcoming. Today, Comcast repeated the exact same line — more than six months later.

Hannah Jane Sassaman, Policy Director for the Media Mobilizing Project, a Philadelphia organization that has repeatedly called on Comcast to do better by the residents of its home market, says she’s disappointed that the company has yet to say when it will bring DOCSIS 3.1 here.

“Comcast’s hometown is a city where thousands of families struggle to afford fast, reliable Internet, and where entrepreneurs in Center City and neighborhoods across Philadelphia can’t find or afford connectivity to grow their businesses,” Sassaman tells Consumerist. “Many of the cities with this Comcast gigabit offering have high-speed competitors in Google Fiber or AT&T. Comcast should invest in gigabit internet here at home in Philadelphia, which needs more high-speed choices, especially as Comcast committed to expand new initiatives of this sort in Philly as a part of their new 15-year franchise deal with the city.”

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