Comcast Now Says It Will Offer Next-Gen Broadband In Chicago At Lower Price; You Just Have To Ask

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Earlier this week, Comcast announced that it was launching its higher-speed next-generation broadband service in Chicago, but the only price it would confirm was double the lowest rate charged by Comcast in the other markets where it had already offered this service. However, Comcast has now confirmed to Consumerist that folks in Chicagoland will indeed be able to get the lower rate — if they know how to ask for it.

The next-gen service uses the DOCSIS 3.1 standard, which allows cable companies to deliver data at speeds equal to (and faster) than most fiberoptic services but over existing cable lines. That means it costs significantly less for Comcast to roll out the new higher-speed option.

In the two markets where it’s already begun offering DOCSIS 3.1, Comcast has offered two pricing options: $140/month for customers who don’t want a contract (meaning they can cancel service whenever they want), or $70/month for people willing to agree to a 3-year contract.

However, when Comcast announced its expansion of the service to Chicago, it only mentioned the no-contract $140 price. Additionally, when we asked the cable company about the lack of a $70 option, Comcast would only say that it was a new product and it was testing different prices for different markets.

This led us, and others, to speculate that Comcast was following the AT&T GigaPower model of only offering lower-price options for high-speed service in markets where it faced competition from the relatively affordable Google Fiber. Comcast has to compete with Google in parts of Atlanta and Nashville, but Chicago is currently only on Fiber’s “maybe” list for the future.

Then today, we spoke to one of the oracles residing at 1701 JFK Blvd. who declared that Comcasters in Chicago will be able to get the $70/month rate. And just like in Atlanta and Nashville, that price is contingent on agreeing to a 3-year contract.

The catch: That rate won’t, at least initially, be listed on the Comcast website. Once your neighborhood gets upgraded to DOCSIS 3.1 (while it doesn’t require an entirely new network, it’s not as simple as flipping a switch), you’d have to call Comcast to inquire about the $70/month rate.

On the upside: This high-speed service won’t — at least for now — be capped in Chicago, meaning users will be able to download 4K video, full video games, and stream live feeds to multiple devices simultaneously without having to worry (again, for now) about hitting some monthly data limit.

Those who upgrade to DOCSIS 3.1 will also need a new modem, as the current generation of modems are 3.0 and will not be able to handle the gigabit speeds that the new standard delivers.

It looks like manufacturers are not yet selling these modems directly to consumers yet, but retail availability of 3.1 modems should happen in the coming year. Until they are available — and until Comcast has verified a modem works on its system — customers would have to lease the hardware through Comcast.

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