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Cable Web Services Get Faster
Comcast, Adelphia to Boost Internet Connection Speeds

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"By doubling the speed, we think we significantly increase the value of the service," says Jaye Gamble, a Comcast senior vice president. (Marie Poirier Marzi For The Washington Post)


_____Correction_____
An Oct. 3 Business article about cable companies providing faster Web-surfing speeds to customers misidentified the rate of the upgraded connection. Comcast and Adelphia customers will get download speeds of three megabits-per-second later this year.


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By Mike Musgrove
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 3, 2003; Page E02

Comcast Cable Communications Inc. and Adelphia Communications Corp. announced separately yesterday that they will be boosting the Web-surfing speeds for their cable Internet customers at no extra cost.

The move comes as telephone companies such as Verizon Communications Inc. have been trimming prices for their competing digital-subscriber-line Internet access.

Comcast and Adelphia said after they have finished their system upgrades by the end of the year, customers should have Internet connection speeds of 3 megabytes per second for downloads and 256 kilobytes per second for uploads -- as much as twice as fast as what they now have.

Comcast's Internet access plan will remain $42.95 per month for its cable subscribers or $57.95 per month for people who do not also subscribe to Comcast's cable TV offerings.

Both firms said they were responding to customers using software applications that require quicker Web access, such as watching movie trailers and other videos.

"By doubling the speed, we think we significantly increase the value of the service," said Jaye Gamble, senior vice president for Comcast for the District and Virginia. "The increase in speed is something that has come up time and again in discussions with customers."

Karl Ossentjuk, vice president of Internet services product management at Adelphia, said the boost in access speed was in response to "clear consumer usage" of multimedia applications, such as listening to music and viewing magazine-quality photos.

Cable industry analyst Gary Arlen, of Arlen Communications Inc. in Bethesda, said both companies may be responding to the phone companies' slashing of prices for DSL service.

Verizon, for example, offers lower speeds than cable Internet service, but it also offers lower prices. The company sells high-speed DSL Internet access for $34.95 a month, or as low as $29.95 if subscribers also sign up for local and long-distance phone plans.

"Cable companies have generally not budged on pricing, so one of the ways they can justify that is by offering higher speeds than DSL," Arlen said.

DSL service tops out at 1.5 megabytes per second, Arlen said, but because of the way cable Internet access is designed, it isn't highly expensive or labor-intensive for a cable company to increase download speeds for its customers.

According to the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, an industry trade group, there are 13.8 million cable Internet subscribers in the United States, significantly more than the number of DSL subscribers, which some analysts put at around 7 million.

Analysts gave the move by Comcast and Adelphia mixed reviews. Faster access is good, they said, but some want the cable companies to lower their prices.

"It's a nice marketing move, but it doesn't do much to expand broadband to a wider market," said Michael W. Harris, president of Kinetic Strategies Inc., a research firm in Phoenix. "If the consumer isn't ready to buy at 1.5 megs, switching to 3 isn't going to change their mind. A lot of users simply don't need that much Internet."

A spokeswoman for Cox Communications Inc. yesterday said that the cable company has offered download speeds of 3 megabytes per second for its customers since February 2002. Now that such speeds are becoming more commonplace, the company might be considering offering even faster connections.

"It's definitely something we're looking at," she said.


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