(TNS) -- Comcast turned on its new, superfast gigabit internet service across Oregon and Washington on Wednesday. It's the region's broadest rollout yet for a speedier, pricier tier of residential online access.
A gigabit is 1,000 megabits per second, 40 times faster than the federal broadband standard, quick enough to download an entire high-definition movie in 40 seconds. Few households need gig connections now - they're faster than many online services and home electronics can accommodate.
But gigabit speeds have become a gold standard for internet service as household gadgets proliferate and put more demands on homes' connections. And some tech professionals and gamers already have the hardware to take advantage of gigabit speeds.
Comcast's gigabit internet service
Speed: Up to 1 gigabit per second
Price: $160 a month with no service contract, or $110 for new Comcast internet customers who agree to a one-year contract. Bundled pricing for Comcast cable TV and phone customers varies, but gigabit service is typically $50 to $70 more per month. Modems are $10 a month, though customers can buy their own.
Availability: Throughout Comcast's service territory in Oregon and Southwest Washington, an area that includes Portland, Vancouver, Beaverton, Hillsboro and Eugene.
Data cap: 1 terabyte, which is 1,000 gigabytes. Comcast offers unlimited data for an extra $50 a month.
Comcast's new gig service costs $160 a month, more than double what the company charges for a considerably slower, 25-megabit-per-second connection. (Modems cost extra to rent or buy.) Comcast is offering a $110 gigabit plan for new customers who sign a one-year contract, and other prices for households that also subscribe to cable TV or phone service.
Comcast generally limits subscribers to 1 terabyte of data per month, which is far more than most households use in a month. Yet the faster speeds enable far more data consumption, which makes it more likely subscribers will hit that data cap. Comcast offers unlimited data for an extra $50 a month.
With its new gigabit service, Comcast is delivering what Google Fiber could not or would not. Google flirted with bringing gigabit connections to Portland for more than two years before dropping its plans last summer -- apparently deterred by the high cost of running fiber throughout neighborhoods.
In the meantime, CenturyLink introduced gigabit connections in portions of its Oregon service territory, including much of Portland and Vancouver. Google Fiber charges $70 a month for its gig service in other markets; CenturyLink currently advertises an introductory, $80 monthly rate for gigabit speeds.
Comcast's service is distinguished by its broad availability. The company is already the Northwest's largest internet service provider, with 600,000 subscribers in Oregon and Washington. It uses its existing cable network to build the faster service rather than string new fiber to neighborhoods as CenturyLink did, and Google Fiber had planned to do.
Comcast also introduced gigabit speeds to Seattle, the San Francisco Bay Area, and several other U.S. markets Wednesday.
As Comcast rolls out its new service, it continues to pursue an Oregon property tax break lawmakers created two years ago in the vain hope of luring Google Fiber to the region. That break, for service providers offering gigabit speeds, could be worth several million dollars a year to Comcast (the actual amount would depend on property tax assessments).
Comcast claimed it qualified for the tax break last year, based on a limited 2-gigabit connection it offered to customers willing to pay extremely high fees. The state Department of Revenue denied Comcast's eligibility, though, and the two sides are currently litigating the dispute.
Even with the new gigabit service, though, Comcast may never get to take advantage of the tax break. With Google Fiber out of the picture in Portland, a House committee voted unanimously last week to repeal the tax exemption.
The repeal, House Bill 2770, is now before a joint legislative committee.
©2017 The Oregonian (Portland, Ore.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.