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Comcast's new NOW prepaid Internet looks surprisingly compelling

Comcast Xfinity logoImage: Comcast

In the spirit of full disclosure: I really despise Comcast’s Xfinity Internet. Which is why its new prepaid nationwide Internet service, NOW Internet, looks surprisingly like something I would use–close, but not quite.

Comcast’s NOW service is a new brand for the company. It’s wired Internet, at affordable, all-inclusive rates: $30-45 per month, including taxes, fees, a router, and unlimited data. Is there a catch? The service maxes out at 200Mbps per month — which is still much faster than most people’s basic connections, to be fair — but otherwise, not really. It’s a seemingly customer-friendly service from a company that has never really been seen as customer-friendly for more than a decade.

You know the routine: You receive your bill. Your eyes pop, you gasp, your blood pressure rises. You book an hour or two on your schedule to call, complain, wheedle, yell — all part of the Comcast Xfinity negotiation we advised you to perform a decade ago. After threatening to leave, you end up on the cheaper promotional plan.

Now, Comcast NOW actually promises to change that. Two plans are available: a $30/mo NOW Internet plan that offers 100Mbps speeds, and the more expensive 200Mbps plan for $45 per month. Want TV on top of that? NOW TV offers a $20 package that includes “40+ live channels, more than two dozen integrated FAST channels, and Peacock Premium,” — all streaming, however, and on the Xfinity Stream app. There’s even NOW Mobile: $55 per month if you bundle Internet and TV, and $25/mo for each additional line.

Comcast also offers a NOW WiFi Pass: unlimited access to 23 million Xfinity hotspots (the ones that your Xfinity service probably turns on by default) for 30 days. all for $20.

Comcast even goes so far as to literally spell out what you’ll get, in detail, in its list of NOW plans. For example, Comcast claims that you’ll receive a typical download speed of 234.27Mbps with the 200Mbps plan, an upload speed of 11.68Mbps, and latency of 20.174 milliseconds.

Comcast

Is there a catch? If there is, it’s not an obvious one. Comcast says that the service is subject to the Xfinity Residential Services contract, which includes its Acceptable Use Policy. That policy does specify that you can’t use your PC as a Web host or to share files. There’s also a NOW policy (PDF) that basically says that the service can be cancelled for a refund before it’s turned on. Comcast does require you to use a “refurbished” gateway instead of a new one, and to pay online.

Since Comcast NOW is a monthly service, though, that shouldn’t matter. “This monthly price is not an introductory rate,” Comcast says. “There is no term contract. Price is subject to change.”

Comcast doesn’t seem to even be offering the standard “input your address, and we’ll tell you if you can be a customer” page. It is nationwide, after all.

Is Comcast NOW Internet right for you?

For me? Not quite. My family doesn’t need the eye-popping 10-gigabit speeds that my colleague Gordon Ung signed up for. Instead, we make do with about 500Mbps. That’s more than enough for streaming and downloading, even with my family of four on the Internet all at once. Because of how our house is designed, we have a much harder time actually distributing that Internet around the home — I hate spending a ton for good mesh networking just as much, honestly.

So, yeah, Comcast Xfinity’s new NOW service is a little slow. If they increased the speeds to 400Mbps…maybe. But for me, I simply hate seeing a massive bill for Internet services. I’ve actually lobbied my small Bay Area town to let in rival ISPs, but Comcast still has monopoly status. If T-Mobile were to build 5G towers a bit closer to my house and improve the router, its fixed wireless broadband may be in my home today.

And it’s unlimited, too. Comcast seriously pissed me off when it ended its unlimited broadband service near the end of the pandemic — but left it in place in the Northeast. That’s always struck me as deeply unfair.

As it is, I seriously have to wonder: did Comcast actually do something good for a change? On paper, it sure looks like it.

As PCWorld’s senior editor, Mark focuses on Microsoft news and chip technology, among other beats. He has formerly written for PCMag, BYTE, Slashdot, eWEEK, and ReadWrite.

Recent stories by Mark Hachman:

Udio’s AI music is my new obsessionBroadband ‘nutrition labels’ kick in, revealing hidden fees for ISPsHappy 20th birthday to Gmail, the email client that changed our lives

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