Fast Flicks and Fat Pipes from Comcast

Many consumers are justifying purchases of expensive high-definition Blu-ray players and movie discs by lamenting that a better alternative - such as streaming downloads of high-def movies to a hard drive attached to the TV -is too many years away.

Just how many years is too many? Comcast said Thursday it will roll out a broadband Internet system called Docsis 3.0 in 2009 and 2010 that will enable download speeds of 50 megabits per second at first, and 160 megabits per second eventually. At the first speed, a high-def movie will take 10 minutes to download, according to the company.

Comcast said it would begin the roll-out in Minnesota this week, so perhaps Twin Cities residents should re-evaluate that Blu-ray player purchase. Where there's a fat pipe, movie download services will soon follow. The service will start at $150 per month, but should come down in price over several years.

Twenty percent of Comcast's other subscribers will get access to Docsis 3.0 by the end of this year, with the remaining markets to be upgraded by 2010. The big-bandwidth pipes work like this: Comcast will bundle the bandwidth normally available to four analog TV channels, and, perhaps, by compressing signals on other types of channels. -Rachel Rosmarin

New York Times