Earlier this summer, Comcast began offering a new internet service in the greater Chicago area that offers fiberoptic-like speeds but over existing cable lines. Right away, there were questions about the price: In other markets where Comcast sold this service, the rate was only $70/month for people willing to sign a three-year contract, but Chicagoans weren’t initially being offered this discount. Then the company appeared to change its mind, offering that lower rate, though even then there was confusion. Now it looks like that discounted rate is off the table for the handful of Chicago-area cities where it had been an option.
This is according to Ars Technica, which reports that the Chicago-area cities where the $70 rate had been available — including Arlington Heights, Naperville, Plainfield, Waukegan, Tinley Park, Batavia, and Bloomington, plus South Bend across the border in Indiana — now only have the option of paying $140/month for the service.
Customers in these cities who were able to get the lower rate are still locked into it, but new subscribers are not.
Ars notes that the $70 rate is, at least for now, still currently available in certain Chicago neighborhoods.
We’ve asked Comcast to explain the change of heart but have yet to hear back. Comcast’s explanation to Ars Technica — that this was merely a test promotion that has come to an end — meshes with the company told us back in August, when we first why the full Chicago area was not getting the $70 option. At the time, a rep for Comcast would only say that this was a new technology and the company was testing different pricing models as it rolled the new service out to different markets.
We were not the only ones to point out that in Atlanta and Nashville, the two markets that received the upgrade before Chicago, there is (or soon will be) reasonably affordable competition for high-speed data from AT&T and Google Fiber, and that the going rate for that fiberoptic service in those markets is $70.
Chicago is still only listed as a “Potential” market for Google, and now that the internet giant has paused many of its Fiber expansion plans, it seems less likely that the Chicago area will join the Fiber family in the near future.
The new service being rolled out in Chicago and these other markets uses the DOCSIS 3.1 standard, which allows cable internet providers like Comcast to send data at speeds comparable — in some cases faster — than current fiberoptic networks, but without having to build out an entirely new network. For the consumer, the only change needed is usually a new modem that is compatible with DOCSIS 3.1.
This is why, even at $140/month, the Comcast gigabit cable internet is less expensive than the company’s relatively new Gigabit Pro fiberoptic offering. While that service can provide speeds that are up to twice as fast as the DOCSIS 3.1 connections, it comes at more than twice the cost: $300/month plus potentially $1,000 for installation and activation.