Comcast Ready to Offer a Boost


The idea of bandwidth on-demand is at the heart of a new feature Comcast Corp. has been quietly rolling out in the past few weeks, offering customers a bonus boost if there is excess network-bandwidth capacity.

The cable operator is using a homegrown, patent-pending technology that can dole out excess network capacity among all cable-modem customers, providing as much as twice the bandwidth of their service tier at no extra charge.

Already up and running in several markets, “PowerBoost” gives customers tapping the 6-megabit-per-second “Comcast High Speed Internet” service a boost to 12 mbps, and those on the 8-mbps service can see speeds of 16 mbps.

Comcast can do so because the network is designed to handle far more customers simultaneously using their cable-modem connections than actually do so at any given time, even during high-usage evening hours, according to spokeswoman Jeanne Russo.

While Comcast has not put any marketing behind the feature, in the markets where it has been quietly rolled out, “We’ve seen a lot of feedback in the forums, and the customers are noticing it,” Russo said.

Comcast president Steve Burke mentioned PowerBoost in remarks at a conference in Carlsbad, Calif., earlier this week, sponsored by The Wall Street Journal.

Providing bandwidth on-demand looks to be a trend among cable operators. Also earlier this week, Cox Communications Inc. announced that it would use technology from Camiant Inc. to provide on-demand speed demos to cable-modem customers interested in buying into higher service tiers (

When brought fully online later this year, the PacketCable Multimedia-based technology can automatically upgrade a customer’s cable-modem connection, then ramp it back down once the demo is complete.

And Ohio’s Buckeye CableSystem is also getting ready to roll out a bandwidth-boost service based on the Camiant system later this summer. Buckeye plans to use the technology not only to offer speed demos to customers, but also monthly speed turbo boosts, allowing customers to more quickly upload large photo files or download big multimedia files.