Comcast said Friday that it will bring its 2-gigabit symmetrical Gigabit Pro service to San Francisco Bay Area consumers in May, sidestepping Google and its own fiber plans. The company also said it will boost the speeds of some of its more premium tiers and add a new Extreme 250 tier.
A Comcast spokesman said that prices for each of the services would be announced closer to the launch date. Comcast also said it would upgrade its Performance tier from 50 Mbps (megabits per second) to 75 Mbps, and its Blast tier from 105 Mbps to 150 Mbps, all for free.
Why this matters: Cynics will see this as a way to appease Silicon Valley techies who may be lobbying the Federal Communication Commission and the Department of Justice to enforce net neutrality and block Comcast's proposed merger with Time Warner Cable. It's certain that these new bandwidth tiers won't come cheap. But to Silicon Valley techies with nothing to spend money on but rent, food, gadgets, and sweet, sweet Internet, how can you say no?
Leapfrogging Google in the fiber race
Comcast's announcement will undoubtedly roil the tech-centric Silicon Valley. Google had talked about bringing its own gigabit fiber to homes in the South Bay, including Cupertino, but the company hasn't yet committed to a full rollout.
Comcast said the changes will begin in May and roll out through the rest of the year, potentially affecting three million California homes. Specifically, the upgrades wll apply to the Chico, Fresno, Marysville/Yuba City, Merced, Modesto, Monterey, Sacramento, Salinas, San Francisco Bay Area, Santa Barbara County, Stockton and Visalia metro areas. These areas are hardly small: for the San Francisco Bay Area (where PCWorld is based), services will apply to the traditional Bay Area, extending north to Napa, northeast to Vacaville, and east to communities like Walnut Creek.
"This is Comcast's 15th speed increase in 13 years," said Hank Fore, regional senior vice president of Comcast Cable's California region, in a statement. "We are proud to boost our existing speeds and most importantly introduce new Internet tiers like the Extreme 250 and Gigabit Pro that will allow our California customers to do more online, across multiple devices. We will continue to look for opportunities to increase speeds to not only stay ahead of customer demands, but also to provide a wide range of options that meet customer needs."
There is a bit of a catch, however; Comcast said the new services will require professional-grade installation, and you'll need to be "in close proximity" to its existing fiber network.
The new Comcast Gigabit Pro service is symmetrical, meaning that you'll be able to download 2 Gbps, and upload at that speed as well. Comcast's existing 50-Mbps service uploads data at 5 Mbps. The other tiers will break down as as follows: 105 Mbps down/10 Mbps up, 150 Mbps/20 Mbps, and 250 Mbps/25 Mbps.