Comcast’s blazing fast Internet is half the speed of DSL

Posted by Wolfgang Gruener

Chicago (IL) – Comcast has begun to quietly, but very aggressively pitch an “economy tier” Internet service to its customers – a service that is generally “not recommended”, but squarely aimed at dial-up users and perhaps one or the other DSL Internet users. As all Comcast residential Internet services, this entry-level service also comes with the firm’s mysterious bandwidth cap.

Comcast customers may receive “an exciting” automated message from Comcast these days: Comcast is now actively marketing a “blazing fast” cheaper Internet service for the “every-day low price of $24.95”. Every-day low price means that this service is not a 3- or 6-month time limited offer but a regular price that is substantially below the standard 6 Mb/s downlink (1 Mb/s uplink) the company offers for $42.95 per month (applies to customers who subscriber to other Comcast services as well, excludes taxes and fees).

So, what do you get for $25 per month from Comcast? We had no idea, but if it is blazing fast and Comcast can make fun of DSL speeds with its current “Slowskys” commercials that compares DSL to turtles, it should be fast, right?

The first call we made to Comcast in fact brought enticing news. We were told that the phone call promoted the company’s “economy tier” offering, provides 4 Mb/s download speeds and 384 Kb/s upload bandwidth. There was enough confusion about this offering on the side of the sales representative to convince us that we should make at least two more calls to Comcast’s sales department as well as a PR contact.

The second call we made confirmed the 4 Mb/s bandwidth, but mentioned that the service would only be available to non-Comcast subscribers and not in my area (Chicago suburbs). In my case, the cheapest offering would still be the $42.95 service. The third call to a sales rep and a response from Rich Ruggiero, vice president of communications and public affairs for Comcast in Illinois then squashed our hopes, stating that we can’t get 4 Mb/s for $25. Instead, $25 buys a "blazing" bandwidth of just 768 Kb/s (down) and 384 (up).  

Interestingly enough, this speed is just half what you could buy from the Slowskys over at AT&T for the same money. AT&T currently offers a downlink speed of 1.5 Mb/s (384 Kb/s up). 3.0 Mb/s (512 Kb/s up) service for $30 per month. 6.0 Mb/s is priced at $35 per month. However, if you are willing to spend substantially more, cable still outpaces DSL: Besides the 6 Mb/s service, Comcast also offers 8 Mb/s for $52.95, 16 Mb/s for $67.95 and 50 Mb/s for $149.95 per month.

It is worth noting that, as part of its residential offering, Comcast sales associates explained to us that the economy Internet plan has the same bandwidth cap as every other residential plan. Comcast declined to specify this cap, but noted that normal use, including music and video downloading, would not hit or exceed this cap. However, in the case a user exceeds the preset limit, Comcast will send a letter, inform the subscriber of “excessive use” and “suggest” an upgrade to commercial Internet service, a sales associate said.  

Note: If it sounds to good to be true, it probably is.

Update 3:21 PM EDT: Comcast told us that a 4 Mb/s service in fact exists, but is not marketed actively. Ruggiero said that a small number of Comcast customers who chose not to upgrade their speed from 4 Mb/s to 6 Mb/s for an additional $2 per month are still at that speed. 4 MB/s is provided for $57.95 per month to non-Comcast customers, while the 6 Mb/s service is priced at $59.95 (non-Comcast customers).