Comcast’s municipal broadband challenge

September 8, 2002 | Michael Greeson | Founder & Principal Analyst

Comcast’s municipality broadband problem

Normally, you would be forgiven for ignoring most technical announcements from broadband providers, but not today. Comcast announced it would launch a 2 Mbps downstream/200 Mbps upstream broadband service in 34 communities by the end of 2022 and offer customers a combination of 10G-enabled multi-gig symmetrical broadband and WiFi by the end of 2023. By the end of 2025, Comcast’s 10G service will pass 50 million homes and businesses. Work is underway in Augusta, Georgia; Colorado Springs, Colorado; and Panama City, Florida.

I happen to live in Fort Collins, CO, which is north of Denver on Interstate 25 about the same distance Colorado Springs is south of Denver. These announcements are good news for those of us living on the Front Range, as no doubt work will expand northward in short order.

It is worth noting that the city of Fort Collins has launched its own publicly-funded broadband service. Yes, one of those municipal broadband operators that supposedly died off many years ago because of its poor business model. In fact, there are 331 active municipal broadband networks in the U.S., nearly one-third of which offer a 1 Gbps symmetric service. These are mostly small or medium-sized cities, Fort Collins being among them, and more to come. See, municipalities have evolved to view broadband as a utility critical to its citizens—as much as electric, water, and gas services—but which the marketplace will not (without heavy subsidies) distribute with equal speeds of service, functionality, and prices. You can hear the cacophony of resistance from free market supporters, but this is the reality large broadband operators face in small and medium-sized markets.

As to the FoCo’s municipal broadband offerings, they include:

  • 1-gig synchronous for $60/month
  • 10-gig synchronous service for $300/month
  • Free professional installation

As to Comcast’s broadband offering, they include:

  • 900 Mbps downstream service for $100/month
  • 1 Gbps downstream service for $130/month
  • 6 Gbps downstream service for $300/month
  • compatible equipment (which the company is quite happy leasing to you)
  • a 2-year contract

Few households yet need a 10G service, but the faster Comcast can deploy bidirectional DOCSIS 4.0 technology in this area, the faster it can head off competition from the city.

For the record, I have no special knowledge of why Comcast chose Colorado’s front range for launching 10G services. That said, with Fort Collins in field with a bidirectional 10G service, and Colorado Springs set to follow suit, there is no doubt the threat of municipal competitors played a role in the company’s decision.