One week after announcing that it would work with BitTorrent on ways to better manage Internet traffic on its network, Comcast announced Wednesday the first rollout of its higher-speed Internet service, which will launch Thursday in the Minneapolis-St. Paul market. The speedier service is based on the cable industry's Data Over Cable Service Inferface Specification 3.0 standard for data delivery.
Comcast CEO Brian Roberts promoted DOCSIS 3.0 technology at the Consumer Electronics Show in January, saying that it would dramatically improve Comcast's broadband speeds.
The Comcast service will offer up to 50 megabits per second download speeds and 5 mbps upload for no price increase ($149.95 per month). Comcast said it will provide up to 100 mbps within two years and 160 mbps in the future. Currently, Comcast's fastest download speed is 16 mbps.
It expects to offer the service in 20% of its markets by the end of the year and to all of the country by 2010.
Comcast's agreement with BitTorrent came in the face of criticism and complaints to the Federal Communications Commission that Comcast was blocking BitTorrent's service, which replies on a web of file uploaders to share high-bandwidth files like TV shows and movies. Comcast denied that it did or does block traffic but conceded that it managed traffic from heavy users at peak times to provide a consistent customer experience.
A Comcast spokesman said the rollout of the higher-speed service is a demonstration of how Comcast will contribute to the resolution of the network-management issue. "This is how it is going to happen," he said, adding that for its part, BitTorrent will find ways to "tweak" their protocol "so that it works more smoothly on the network."
Why in Minneapolis-St. Paul rather than, say, the Washington, D.C., area, where the political heat is on? A Comcast spokesman said the market was "uniquely positioned" and offered the "perfect infrastructure."
At CES, Roberts also promoted Fancast, a new Comcast online video service. It is efforts like that, as well as cable's traditional video service, that has network-neutrality fans crying foul over content blocking/network management, saying that companies like Comcast could advantage their own content by slowing or stopping traffic using the BitTorrent service to download competing content.