If you’re using Comcast for internet right now, you’re either renting a modem from them, or you’ve bought one. If you’re renting, chances are you’re paying around $3.20 per month for the privelege. In that case, your modem is likely a cheap Scientific Atlanta/Cisco model that you could get for $20 off of eBay.

But before you go and get the modem off of eBay, check this out.

The item in question is the Motorola SB (SurfBoard) 6120, a DOCSIS 3.0 cable modem. Aside from being rather expensive (regular cable modems run around $50-$60 in stores), it’s pretty much future-proof as far as cable systems go. That’s what the DOCSIS 3.0 is for.

Comcast will be upgrading their network to this technology in the relatively near future around here; they’ve already done so in other markets. The biggest benefit of the tech is that it can bond together cable channels to allow for a faster internet experience. In theory, up to eight chanels can be bonded for downloads, and four for uploads, though the equipment to do so won’t be out for quite awhile. The SB6120 can bond together four download channels for up to 152 Mbps of speed on a cable “node” (as opposed to one 38 Mbps channel) and four upload channels for up to 120 Mbps (versus one 30 Mbps channel on DOCSIS 2.0, or 10 Mbps on DOCSIS 1.1, which a lot of this area still runs on).

As of right now, Comcast is only bonding together three channels on downloads, with no bonding on uploads, though you will get DOCSIS 2.0 speeds there. So, 114 Mbps of speed to share on downloads, 30 Mbps for uploads.

This means that, once the new tiers come out, you’ll get faster speeds and less congestion, since people will be spread over more available bandwidth. To be precise, Comcast will increase their lower tier speeds to 12/2 and 16/2 megabits per second download/upload. They will also add two higher-end tiers: “Ultra”, with 22 Mbps down and 5 Mbps up for $10 more than their current highest-end tier, and “Extreme” with 50 Mbps down and 10 Mbps up for about $150 per month.

These tiers will still have their 250GB cap on residential service (solution: upgrade to business for an extra amount per month), and the infrastructure is still shared with a few hundred other internet users, but it’s progress.

Until then, if you buy the SB6120, you wont have to keep paying Comcast modem rent, and you’ll get a top-of-the-line modem, which will probably net you faster download and upload speeds anyway. Plus you get to brag that your cable modem has gigabit Ethernet on the LAN side (it does) and that it looks freakin’ sweet (it does). As soon as I can sell my cable modem (anyone want a perfect-condition Zoom 5241 DOCSIS 2.0 modem?) I’m grabbing one of these puppies; if fiber optic internet suddenly comes into town I can always sell it to a poor soul stuck in a less served area.

Have questions about Comcast’s system or this newfangled DOCSIS 3 technology? Post in the comments!

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