If you've heard of services like Verizon FiOS or Google Fiber, you know that many technologists regard fiber optic Internet as the future. Fiber can deliver Internet speeds of up to 1 gigabit per second, marking a 100-fold improvement over today's household average. But now cable is poised to catch up with gigabit speeds of its own, and Comcast will be among the first to adopt the technology behind it.

Comcast's fastest service tops out at 505 megabits per second, roughly half of what fiber can deliver at peak performance. But with a new chip being unveiled this week by the hardware company Broadcom, new cable modems will support speeds of 1 Gbps. That's all thanks to a forthcoming industry standard known as DOCSIS 3.1, which theoretically unlocks transfer rates of up to 10 Gbps.

"DOCSIS 3.1 is a critical technology for Comcast to provide even faster, more reliable data speeds and features such as IP video to our subscribers' homes," said Tony Werner, Comcast executive vice president, in a press release.

The rollout to customers will begin this year, Werner added. The more advanced, 10 Gbps speeds are further off, but the announcement highlights the competition between fiber and more traditional connectivity technologies. Last year, researchers proved that DSL lines (remember those?) could be upgraded to support gigabit speeds, as well. Given the cost of installing fiber directly to the home, many broadband providers may in the future use a combination of these technologies to boost your Internet speeds.