According to the Wall Street Journal, Comcast will begin upgrading its networks by midyear for new DOCSIS 3.0 technology that will dramatically increase Internet connection speeds, and the success of the initiative will determine how aggressive Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications and Charter Communications will be in rolling out DOCSIS 3.0.

The cable industry is launching DOCSIS in an effort to challenge the high-speed Internet offerings of phone companies. Verizon has signed up 1.54 million customers for its FiOS high-performance fiber-optic network since December 2007, and AT&T has signed up 50,000 customers for a more limited fiber-optic service called U-Verse.

Analysts are unsure whether DOCSIS 3.0 will limit the damage of FiOS, which currently offers download speeds of up to 50 megabits per second and is nearly two and one half times faster than those currently offered by Comcast or Time Warner.

Nonetheless, the cable industry is excited about DOCSIS 3.0.

“It takes us to a whole new level of speed and bandwidth,” said Brian Roberts, Comcast CEO. In the next two years, homes served by DOCSIS 3.0 will gain speeds of over 100 megabits per second, which is needed due to the growth of Internet applications, such as video downloading.

“DOCSIS 3.0 has the potential to influence an entirely new phase of Internet innovation in the same way that broadband spurred the development of many of the video-rich applications that have become mainstream today,” said Mitch Bowling, vice president of operations for Comcast.

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