Comcast gigabit service goes live: No Google killer yet

Comcast’s Internet service isn’t yet ready to match the speeds that Google Fiber offers, but the cable giant just took a big step toward taking on Google. A protocol known as DOCSIS 3.1, which can increase broadband speeds almost tenfold, just went live in Philadelphia, and it works with Comcast’s existing network and cables.

The information comes by way of a Comcast press release that explains a bit about how DOCSIS 3.1 works and just how fast it can get. The often-malignedInternet provider has been working on DOCSIS 3.1 for months, and finally activated a consumer trial in Philadelphia. Here’s the catch: So far, only one user has access to the service.

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DOCSIS, which stands for Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification, is a tried-and-true method of transmitting data via broadband. The 3.1 spec is where it sets itself apart from earlier versions. At present, the average broadband speed in the United States hovers somewhere around 11 Mbps. According to Comcast, DOCSIS can routinely deliver speeds of 1 Gbps, or a gigabit — a little less than 10 times as fast.

Delivering gigabit Internet is not new; in fact, programs like Google Fiber, which has been around for years, also provides speedy connectivity. The big difference is that while Google Fiber requires the installation of new fiber-optic cables, Comcast’s DOCSIS 3.1 works with the physical equipment that Comcast already has in place. To activate the Philadelphia-based test subject’s gigabit speeds, all Comcast had to do was install a new modem and router, and upgrade the local neighborhood server’s software.

While the process is probably a little more complicated than Comcast lets on, the company appears serious about providing its users with measurably better Internet speeds. From one test user in Philadelphia, the program should soon extend to more of Pennsylvania, as well as Northern California and Atlanta.

There’s no word yet on when DOCSIS 3.1 equipment might be available to everyday consumers, or how much it might cost.