Just ahead of Christmas, Comcast (News - Alert) prepared to close out December in a big way by starting up something it believed to be a world first: a DOCSIS 3.1 modem installed on a network that addressed customers directly. Such a move may not sound like much, but it was actually a first step toward addressing some of Comcast's biggest issues.
The modem was installed in a private residence somewhere around Philadelphia, taking Comcast one step closer to bringing gigabit-speed broadband service out to users on its current network, a hybrid of coaxial and fiber systems. The new modem turned to the same connections currently in place—no need for new installation to put it to use—and a combination of some fresh software and a handful of Comcast's best engineers.
Testing appears to have gone reasonably well, as Comcast has plans to bring this new gigabit speed option to several areas across the country. Since DOCSIS 3.1 is a backwards-compatible system, it can be implemented with digging or too many hardware upgrades. Already, new and expanded trials are slated for several locations including northern California and Atlanta, Georgia. DOCSIS 3.1 seems to be working, so the tests will ultimately prove to be narrowing down further issues and getting the whole thing ready for prime time.
If Comcast is—or rather will be—in a position to offer more gigabit-speed options soon, it also could be that Comcast is preparing the necessary infrastructure to shut down the bandwidth caps. After all, putting out a 300 gigabyte bandwidth cap on a gigabit-speed system is little more than a sure source of frustration for users. This is especially true if Comcast's questionable data reporting methods are still in place when this system starts up; not so long ago we heard about angry Comcast customers who took a case to the government directly, in some cases begging for help against Comcast's combination of bandwidth caps and data use measuring. Offering better speeds and a lost bandwidth cap would make for the kind of environment that makes people want to keep Comcast service, denying markets to competitors.
Both DOCSIS 3.1 and its attendant potential boost to data speeds represent a big opportunity for Comcast to throw off its previous reputation and offer a great new start for users. High-end speeds, coupled with a departure from bandwidth caps, would represent a new opportunity to gain and hold customer loyalty. Used the right way, many of Comcast's earlier issues may be forgotten outright...if it's used the right way.
Edited by Kyle Piscioniere