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Comcast looks to protect cable business with new deal on faster internet speeds

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Comcast is going on the offensive against cord cutters. The company announced a deal last week for customers in Houston, Oregon, and Southwest Washington state that automatically increases internet speeds for some customers. The catch is that you have to subscribe to a package that includes cable television service and internet, so cord cutters won’t qualify.

If you’re a qualifying Comcast customer, your internet download speeds will double without requiring any action on your part. For example, customers on 60Mpbs download speeds saw an increase to 150Mbps after the speed boost kicked in. Those on the 150Mbps plan saw their speeds jump to 250Mbps, and customers on the 250Mbps plan got a jump to 400Mbps or 1Gbps.

Comcast’s latest move could be seen as an effort to thwart cord cutters. While alternatives like Sling, DirecTV Now, YouTube TV, and PlayStation Vue can replace cable TV, you’ll still need an internet connection to stream your favorite programming on those services. Comcast is likely hoping that the faster internet speeds it offers as a bonus to its pay-TV customers will help it reduce churn in its cable business.

In its latest earnings report, Comcast reported that it had lost 96,000 residential customers, leading to a 0.8 percent decline in video revenue. The company lost a total of 151,000 video subscribers in 2017.

Comcast has also leveraged its internet business to help its pay-TV business fight off encroachment from streaming services, like Netflix and Hulu, in the past. Comcast’s use of data caps could be seen as a way to convert heavy streamers into a cable package. “Heavy TV watchers binging on Netflix or Amazon video may repeatedly go over the 1TB monthly data cap, leaving them with a choice of paying overage fees, reducing online video watching, or subscribing to a non-streaming TV service,” Ars Technica reports.

Rival AT&T, which operates the competing U-verse TV, charges customers overage fees on internet-only plans who exceed their data caps. Comcast, instead, allows customers to pay a $50 premium per month to remove the 1TB data cap and get unlimited data.

Like Comcast, AT&T has seen a drop in its pay-TV numbers. The company’s DirecTV satellite business shed 554,000 customers last year, but that loss was offset by the gain in 888,000 streaming-only customers on the DirecTV Now division.

Yet, despite an increased threat from streaming services, Comcast had announced a partnership with Netflix that makes it easier for its customers to consume Netflix content.

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Chuong Nguyen
Silicon Valley-based technology reporter and Giants baseball fan who splits his time between Northern California and Southern…
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