Comcast Internet subscribers in the North Bay are getting a free speed increase, and some new choices for even faster Internet connections. Here’s today’s press release. The increase covers much of Northern California, including all of Sonoma and Marin counties.

Residential customers are supposed to have their speeds doubled for free, effective immediately. For most people, that would be 12Mbps downstream/2Mbps upstream speed. It’s difficult to measure the true speed of a Comcast connection – they use special technology to boost the first 30 seconds of a download, which fools many of the speed tests. Comcast connections are already so fast that many people won’t notice the difference but heavy downloaders will appreciate it.

The rollout is part of a nationwide Comcast upgrade that allows them to offer even higher speeds to businesses and really intense residential customers. Speeds now top out at 50Mbps for downloads, for hefty monthly fees – a hundred dollars per month for residential customers, almost twice that for businesses. The highest speeds require a new modem capable of “DOCSIS 3.0” but existing equipment should be good enough for the free speed boosts.

Comcast Internet service can be pricey compared to DSL service but the difference in speed is getting to be pretty important. A 1.5Mb DSL circuit seems awfully slow these days compared to a Comcast connection that’s at least eight times faster, not to mention the “Powerboost” technology that exaggerates the difference even more for short downloads. If you’re sharing a connection among multiple computers and can get Comcast service, it’s become a pretty compelling choice for residences and businesses.

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