Comcast is worried that real competition is creeping in on its markets, so the company is offering customers in Atlanta a new choice as part of its gigabit internet trial: sign a three-year contract, or pay twice as much with a data cap. Comcast’s promotional price of $70 is the same as Google Fiber’s regular price, but locks customers in for two years longer than what Google is asking.
The move is clearly designed to deny Google Fiber customers as it enters Comcast’s turf, and Comcast hasn’t been shy about it; the ISP has been dumping flyers that say “don’t fall for the hype” on Atlanta residents, and even set up a website that offers silly cherry-picked facts about how the services compare.
But Comcast conveniently neglects to mention Google Fiber’s real competitive advantages in its chart, which are the only ones that really matter: the price customers have to pay and the quality of service they get. Fiber is cheaper, doesn’t lock customers into a 36-month contract, and is actually faster, since Comcast’s gigabit plan only offers 35Mbps upload speeds. To get symmetrical speeds, customers would have to opt for Comcast’s “Gigabit Pro” service, which offers 2 gigabit upload/download speeds. That plan costs $299.95 a month.
Comcast is afraid of Google Fiber because it’s afraid of competition, which is why it tried to buy Time Warner Cable instead of competing with it. When you’re faced with real competition, customers have the option to say no to craven cable company shakedowns. Comcast, for instance, recently invented new data caps so it could charge people $30 to get rid of them. Coincidentally, Comcast has also been experimenting with its own streaming internet TV service which is excluded from those data caps. Like other monopolistic incumbents, Comcast prefers to rig the market in its favor.
Better prices and speeds aren’t “hype,” they’re just things Comcast isn’t used to having to care about.