The Price for Faster Upload Speeds

I’ve always been impressed by the marketing folks at the big cable companies. They are masters of extracting money from customers willing to pay for better broadband. The latest example comes from Comcast. The company is introducing a new product in the Northeast that offers faster upload speeds – for a price.

Comcast knows that its biggest weakness is upload speeds. The current upload speeds for products with download speeds up to 300 are only at 10 Mbps. The upload speeds for the current 600 Mbps and 800 Mbps products are at 20 Mbps.

Comcast is increasing download speeds across the board for no extra charge – this will catch the Northeast up to much of the rest of the country where speeds have already been increased.  But rather than highlight the deficiency of the technology, Comcast has created a new ‘premium’ product labeled as xFi to bring faster upload speeds. Comcast will charge $25 per month to upgrade the upload speeds to as fast as 100 Mbps.

The following chart shows the download speeds today and the speeds after the automatic speed upgrade. The chart also shows the associated upload speeds – both the current speeds and what will be provided by customers willing to spend an extra $25 per month. Existing gigabit customers won’t see a download speed increase but will be able to buy faster upload speeds for the $25 price.

Download Upload
Current Upgraded Current xFi
50 Mbps 75 Mbps 10 Mbps 75 Mbps
100 Mbps 200 Mbps 10 Mbps 100 Mbps
300 Mbps 400 Mbps 10 Mbps 100 Mbps
600 Mbps 800 Mbps 20 Mbps 100 Mbps
800 Mbps 1 Gbps 20 Mbps 100 Mbps
1.2 Gbps 35 Mbps 100 Mbps
2 Gbps 100 Mbps 200 Mbps

The upgrades in download speeds are supposed to happen over the next few months. The upload upgrades will come at some unspecified time next year.

To make it even more expensive, the xFi upgrade will only be available to customers who are also leasing a Comcast Wi-Fi 6E modem that costs $14 per month. The faster upload speeds won’t work on customer-owned modems. That brings the total cost to get faster upload speeds to $39 extra per month.

For years I’ve been saying that the big cable companies are going to be charging $100 for basic broadband. It looks like Comcast has gotten there sooner than I predicted with this upgrade – at least for customers willing to buy broadband that works.

The Comcast price today for the standalone basic 100 Mbps broadband product is $80. Customers who want to get faster upload speeds with xFi will now be paying $105, plus another $14 for the mandatory modem to get the faster upload – a total of $119. You have to give Comcast credit for being audacious and going for the big price increase all at once. Of course, many Comcast customers get a bundling discount, and new customers get promotional discounts – but with xFi, even those prices are likely to be at $100 or more.

This is just speculation, but I’m guessing that Comcast can’t give everybody faster upload speeds due to network limitations. Rather than admit a network deficiency, the Comcast marketing folks have prettied this up as a premium product. Doling this out only for those willing to spend more will extract the highest new revenues possible without bogging down the network.

One thing that is not being mentioned is that giving some customers faster upload speeds probably means a little slower uploads for everybody else – which will drive even more folks to pony up the extra money.

There is an easy way to get faster upload speeds without paying extra. Many homes in the Northeast can already get symmetrical broadband speeds on Verizon FiOS, and anybody thinking of paying extra to Comcast ought to consider that switch. But for customers in non-FiOS areas, this upgrade is probably the only way to get an upload link that works for a family with multiple broadband users. This new pricing is crying out for new fiber competition. An ISP can build fiber, charge $80 or $90 for symmetrical gigabit, and still bring savings to customers. I always expected that to happen, but not this soon.

It’s likely that Comcast will roll out this product in the rest of the country, and the other Comcast areas have the added burden of paying for data caps. Comcast never put data caps into the Northeast because of Verizon FiOS, but in the rest of the country, any consumers that use more than a terabyte of data in a month pay even more.