To get their acquisition of NBC approved by regulators, Comcast proposed a merger condition requiring they provide $10, 1.5 Mbps broadband to all of the homes that qualify for the National School Lunch Program. This "Internet Essentials" program has seen significant criticism
(and even protests
) over the years for being a political show pony that in reality was intentionally hard to qualify for.
With the company trying to gain regulatory approval of their acquisition of Time Warner Cable, Comcast has recently been placing more attention on the Essentials program, and adjusting it on the fly -- both to seriously address criticism -- but also to ensure Comcast's generosity remains consistently in the press, politician and public eye.
Back in August announced
that they were offering users who hadn't qualified for the program yet six months of free broadband. Comcast also offered an "amnesty program" for low-income users with past-due balances, something that unsurprisingly disqualified a large number of potential applicants.
As the company's merger review heats up, Comcast today announced
that the company has extended their amnesty program, set to expire Saturday, another ten days.
"It has the unique ability to level the playing field, so that no matter what zip code children live in, no matter how much money their parents make or the color of their skin, they can use this potentially life-changing technology to do better in school, go to college, and get a good paying job," insists Comcast's top lobbyist David Cohen.
In a sane world, protecting the Internet marketplace from giant ISPs who've all-but purchased the government would be a bi-partisan issue
, since everybody benefits from a healthy, vibrant broadband industry. But this isn't a sane world, and net neutrality over the last decade has become a highly toxic, partisan issue with Republicans generally against neutrality rules, and Democrats generally in favor of them (even if neither side understands half of the technical issues being discussed).
A report over at DeepDotWeb
claims that Comcast has contacted some users telling them that they risk disconnection if they continue using the privacy-minded Tor browser. Tor (as our recent report explores
) is an entirely legal browser used by 1.2 million people, only some of whom use the browser to buy narcotics and other black market goods.
New York State, emboldened by a new state law that requires mergers to benefit the public, is taking a tougher stance on Comcast's $45 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable, according to Bloomberg News
. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who the outlet notes has received more than $200,000 in campaign contributions from the companies, hasn't formally taken a position -- though the NY PSC is making it clear they'll likely want tougher concessions than most states. Of course the definition of "tough" is relative; Comcast has a long history of volunteering their own "tough" conditions
that even then they've historically had a tough time adhering to
Comcast this week announced that they're introducing a new wireless gateway for residential subscribers the company claims is the "industry's fastest." According to the Comcast announcement
, the new DPC3941T Xfinity Wireless Gateway integrates 802.11ac Wi-Fi and a 3x3 MIMO design with 3 spatial streams that can provide up to 1.3 Gbps of raw throughput (700 Mbps actual, Comcast claims), 80 MHz wide Wi-Fi channel support, and 256-QAM modulation.
There's a discussion thread in our forums
, and users have found a guide
and some additional detail in the FCC database
There's no word on what you'll pay for the honor of using this new device, but users can also e-mail Comcast at AC_WirelessGateway@cable.comcast.com for more detail. Comcast says the device will be available "later this fall to customers in select markets and over time across our footprint."
Over the years we've seen a number of ISPs
and even hotels
run into user backlash and PR problems when they've decided to use deep packet inspection and ad injection to force their ads into user content. Many users don't like any ISP hijacking of site code, much less advertising injection -- especially if users aren't being told the system is being used.
Netflix has thrown their support behind cities eager to build their own broadband without interference from incumbent ISPs and lobbyists. In a filing with the FCC
, Netflix argues that the FCC can and should over-rule states like Tennessee, North Carolina and elsewhere, which have allowed ISPs to literally write the state telecom laws prohibiting towns and cities from improving their own broadband networks -- even in cases where nobody else will.
For months now Netflix has claimed that the largest ISPs have intentionally let their peering points get congested so that Netflix would be forced to pay them for direct interconnection (an argument companies like Level 3 and Cogent support
). So why is Netflix paying AT&T, Time Warner Cable, Verizon and Comcast for these links if they feel they're being railroaded?
According to Netflix filings made with the government
(hat tip to Quartz
), the company was beginning to lose customers who were told by Comcast Netflix was responsible for the problems:
“For many [Comcast] subscribers, the bitrate was so poor that Netflix’s streaming video service became unusable,” he writes, then notes that Comcast reps eventually told subscribers to take their beef to Netflix. “Those customers complained to Netflix and some of them canceled their Netflix subscription on the spot, citing the unacceptable quality of Netflix’s video streams and Netflix’s inability to do anything to change the situation."
You'll recall that when Netflix started giving impacted customers warning message blaming ISPs, Verizon rather quickly threatened to file a lawsuit
, insisting they
were the ones losing customers over the fracas. The FCC launched an investigation
into whether incumbent ISPs were acting anti-competitively back in June.
A TiVo support note
first spotted by Dave Zatz
is the first to highlight Comcast's looming migration away from MPEG-2 to MPEG-4. According to the note, Comcast is transitioning its systems in Augusta, Georgia, from MPEG-2 format to MPEG-4, meaning "that cable channels in this region will not be viewable on older equipment that is incompatible with the new format." I contacted Comcast who confirmed that they were migrating HD channels from MPEG-2 to MPEG-4 in Augusta (SD channels will remain on MPEG-2), which the company notes will provide a "much more efficient use of bandwidth." The company could not offer any information on upgrade timelines for other markets.
Sixty-five consumer, social justice and media reform groups have fired off a letter
voicing their opposition to Comcast's planned $45.2 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable. The letter, sent just as the FCC's open comment period ended earlier this week, complains that the Comcast deal will "inevitably lead to unprecedented gatekeeper control over our nation’s telecommunications and media landscape." Given Comcast's history of failing to meet NBC merger conditions (many of which they themselves recommended
) the groups argue that "no amount of promises or conditions would be good enough to assuage concerns about this merger" and that the "deal needs to be rejected outright."
Stop the Cap amusingly notes
that some 52 Mayors have breathlessly thrown their support behind the Comcast merger
, despite the fact that a long list of these cities have long suffered from horrible customer service, build issues, high prices and other problems with Comcast. Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown's city is held hostage by Verizon's refusal to upgrade the city with FiOS, and Comcast and Time Warner Cable's resulting market dominance, resulting in high prices.
Comcast's historically abysmal customer customer service has many causes, not least of which is the company's fairly obvious lax standards when it comes to subcontractors, which over the years has resulted in installers falling asleep
, murdering people
, digging in the wrong yard
, blowing up laptops
or even animal cruelty
. But to hear many Comcast insiders tell it, another major reason for Comcast's problems is the fact that the company has spent much of its existence growing for the sake of growing.
While Comcast certainly has its faults
, the cable giant has led the way when it comes to IPv6 deployment while many larger ISPs have napped. Comcast recently announced they've officially completed their residential IPv6 deployments
, and around 30% of their customers are now actively running IPv6.
For years our users have complained of phantom Comcast charges -- especially Comcast's tendency to charge customers modem rental fees
even when they own the modem. Another classic Comcast blunder is the tendency to charge users for unreturned equipment fees -- even when all of the equipment has very clearly been returned.
Ever since Ryan Block recorded a Comcast support representative refusing to let him cancel service
, we've seen a swarm of recorded videos showing precisely why Comcast has the worst customer support rankings across any
industry. Earlier this week Comcast was recorded defending $182 in phantom charges
until a customer provided a recording of them promising the user wouldn't be charged.
In June of last year Comcast announced
that the company was launching a new, Fon-like effort that involved new router firmware that turns your gateway into a publicly-accessible hotspot. More specifically, updated routers would now offer two signals: one being yours, and the other being a "xfinitywifi" SSID signal providing free Wi-Fi to other Comcast users in your general area.
Back in January we were the first to report
that Comcast was again doubling speeds on many of its tiers, starting first with the company's Midwest division. As noted then, upgraded Comcast users will see the company's "Performance" tier bumped from 25/5 to 50/5 Mbps, their "Blast" tier from 50/10 to 105/10 Mbps, and their Extreme 105 speeds bumped from 105/20 Mbps to 150/20 Mbps.
As we noted last week
, two different cities with their own broadband networks (Wilson, NC and Chattanooga, Tennessee) have formally asked the FCC to declare that laws in their states hindering community broadband aren't enforceable, giving FCC boss Tom Wheeler the perfect opportunity to back up claims that he'd take action. Such bills are written and lobbied for by companies like Comcast, AT&T and Time Warner Cable, and often restrict local citizen rights to determine for themselves what the best course of action for their community is.
Comcast made the wrong kind of headlines this week after a support representative was recorded simply refusing to let a customer cancel
. Comcast was quick to insist that the company was "embarrassed" by the employee's behavior, claiming that the employee was "unacceptable and not consistent with how we train our customer service representatives." Except since the story broke, numerous Comcast employees have come forward to point out that obnoxious upselling is the rule, not the exception.
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