Home » Comcast/Xfinity » Recent Articles:

Comcast’s Home Security System Empties Customers’ Wallets; Chicago-Area Man Out $1,000

Phillip Dampier September 25, 2014 Comcast/Xfinity, Consumer News No Comments
Comcast's XFINITY Home won't help if the thieves are already inside your house.

Comcast’s XFINITY Home won’t help if the thieves are already inside your house.

Gary O’Reilly and his family moved into their new Libertyville, Ill. home last year and took advantage of a Comcast promotion offering the family a deluxe package of Internet, cable television, and XFINITY Home, Comcast’s home security and automation system. It was a costly mistake that would eventually threaten to leave the family out $1,000, their credit rating destroyed, and hours wasted fighting to get Comcast to live up to its service commitments.

O’Reilly was attracted to Comcast’s security system to protect his family — his wife was pregnant with their second child and they were moving to a new address. In March 2013, two Comcast technicians spent more than eight hours installing four exterior door alarm sensors and two digital thermostats.

Within hours, the family realized something had gone wrong. In the middle of the night, one of the thermostats began beeping relentlessly, indicating a problem.

“It was defective, and because the thermostat was digital, I could not control the temperature in that half of my house,” O’Reilly told the Chicago Tribune’s problem solver. “My pregnant wife and 2-year-old son were freezing in their own home.”

Comcast decided scheduling a service call several days in the future was acceptable under the circumstances, but O’Reilly learned patience isn’t a virtue at Comcast.

Comcast assumes any service call is a potentially billable event, regardless of who is at fault, and O’Reilly discovered they not only charged him for the service call, they also billed him for the replacement thermostat, requiring 8-10 hours of live chats and phone calls to eventually find someone willing to remove the charges from his bill.

The replacement thermostat managed to work for less than a month before it also failed, requiring yet another service call and replacement. Yes, Comcast billed him again for both, requiring another telethon-length session arguing with Comcast’s overseas call centers and live chat employees to remove the charges from his bill yet again.

As you might have guessed, the third replacement began acting up almost immediately, completely draining its AA batteries every 24-36 hours.

That’s your problem, responded Comcast, who would not schedule a return visit to explore the issue further. O’Reilly bought “a ton of batteries over the next few weeks.” The unappreciative third thermostat died anyway.

In mid-June, Comcast returned with thermostat number four, which lasted just a few weeks before it joined the earlier three in thermostat heaven.

Comcast's idea of compromise is a shotgun wedding: Agree to resume your service and we won't take you to court.

Comcast’s idea of compromise is a shotgun wedding: Agree to resume your service and we won’t take you to court.

Shockingly, O’Reilly decided against a fifth replacement and called to cancel his XFINITY Home service. The Comcast representative literally chuckled to O’Reilly after processing his cancellation to “keep an eye out for the termination charges.”

Comcast’s penalty for early cancellation of service: $1,000, conveniently billed on his next invoice.

After literally months of chats and phone calls, Comcast steadfastly refused to waive the charges, reserving the right to charge interest and impose other penalties if O’Reilly didn’t pay.

O’Reilly argues he owed Comcast nothing because the company never lived up to its end of the agreement by supplying reliable service. Nonsense, responds Comcast. After all, they were willing to replace his broken equipment each and every time, all five times.

Comcast wielded everything at its disposal to get paid. The cable company trashed O’Reilly’s over 800 credit score to below 650, preventing him from refinancing his mortgage. The collection calls have also been relentless, and increasingly threatening. On his last call with a Comcast collection agent he was told to pay them in full or they will see him in court.

Even with the venerable Chicago Tribune intervening and willing to serve as a referee, Comcast stubbornly refused to relent, although it offered O’Reilly its definition of a fair compromise.

Comcast spokesman Joe Trost claimed they had reached a settlement with the O’Reilly family.

“Together, [we] talked about the possibility of restarting services with Comcast with the agreement to waive the installation fees and (early termination fees) from the previous account, as well as clearing him from collections and the credit bureaus,” Trost said in an email. “We’re providing Mr. O’Reilly with different package options and composing a letter to overnight to Mr. O’Reilly with the information we discussed over the phone.”

Trost said O’Reilly and Comcast will “move forward together.”

In reality it was a 21st century digital version of a shotgun wedding.

Comcast first offered to remove him from collections, erase the $1,000 early termination fee and clear up his credit history, but only if he agreed to re-establish all of his previous services, including XFNITY Home.

O’Reilly held fast, saying he had no desire to have XFINITY Home back.

With a follow-up story looming in the newspaper, Comcast finally agreed to waive the fees and clean up his credit if he reconnected his Internet service with a higher-speed, more costly Internet tier. O’Reilly said yes.

Another satisfied Comcast customer. It only took 13 months, days of calling and chatting, and a last desperate plea to the Tribune to clear things up.

Share

Comcast Extends Free 6 Months of Internet Essentials Offer An Extra 10 Days As Regulators Ponder Merger

ieAs regulators ponder Comcast’s application to acquire Time Warner Cable, the issue of affordable Internet has been a hot topic as part of the merger review. So it is no surprise Comcast has announced it is extending its recent offer of six free months of Internet Essentials service to income-challenged families with school age children an extra 10 days.

“On August 4th, we made a special announcement: we are offering any family that has not yet signed up for Internet Essentials, up to six months of free service, if they apply before September 20th,” said Comcast executive vice president David Cohen on Comcast’s blog.  “Today, I’m thrilled to announce we’re going to extend that offer through Tuesday, September 30th.”

Comcast admits that only families that have never applied for Internet Essentials in the past can receive free service. Those already enrolled or who attempted to enroll in the past do not qualify.

The cable company does not make participation easy and is intent on protecting the revenue it earns selling regularly priced Internet service by keeping current customers out of the Internet Essentials program.

Just qualifying for Internet Essentials requires navigating an obstacle course:

The program is only available to households:

  • that have at least one child who is eligible to participate in the National School Lunch Program (the “NSLP”) and as confirmed annually while enrolled in the program;
  • do not have an overdue Comcast bill or unreturned equipment; and
  • have not subscribed to any Comcast Internet service within the last ninety (90) days.
Internet Essentials promises no rate increases, but the fine print suggests otherwise.

Internet Essentials promises no price increases, but the fine print suggests otherwise.

The program will only accept new customers for three full school years. After that, if Comcast decides it doesn’t want to offer the service any longer, customers are out of luck. Comcast can also restrict enrollment periods when it accepts new participants and requires annual verification paperwork demonstrating continued participation in the NSLP.

Comcast can throw families out of the program: if a child relocates outside of the household, loses NSLP eligibility, if a bill is paid late, if Comcast decides to stop offering the program, or if your account is closed. If you move, your account will be closed even if you choose to continue Comcast service at your new address, so don’t plan on going anywhere.

If and when Comcast determines your participation in Internet Essentials is over, your rates will automatically reset to standard Internet pricing without further notice. So much for promises of no rate increases. Those regular prices start at around $40 a month + a monthly modem rental fee of around $8 — quite a difference from $9.95.

Although the terms and conditions do not reflect it, Comcast claims to be continuing an “amnesty program” for would-be applicants with past due balances:

If customers have an outstanding bill that is more than one year old, then as long as they meet all the other eligibility criteria, they can apply to the program and we will provide amnesty for that back due bill for the purpose of connecting to Internet Essentials. If customers’ outstanding bills are less than a year old, however, then we would like them to settle that debt with us before they can be eligible to apply for the program. We are willing to work with families whose debt is reasonable enough that that they could pay us back in installments.

For more information, visit www.internetessentials.com or, for Spanish, www.internetbasico.com. You can also call 1-855-8-INTERNET or, for Spanish, 1-855-SOLO-995.

Share

Behind the Bulletproof Glass: More Misadventures at Comcast’s Customer Service Center

Marco S. was so frustrated by the line running outside of his local Comcast store, he snapped this photo. At least the weather was nice.

Marco S. was so frustrated by the line running outside his local Comcast store, he snapped this photo. At least the weather was nice.

Comcast customer Timothy Lee made a grave error in judgment. He decided to return his Comcast-owned cable modem to a Comcast customer service center… on a Saturday!

Long-time Comcast customers know only too well a Saturday visit to Comcast represents a major outing, with long lines that often extend outside and up to an hour or more waiting time.

Lee compared his visit to waiting in line at the post office, but that’s not really true except during the holidays — the post office is better organized and usually lacks the heavy-duty bulletproof glass and surly attitudes that separate Comcast’s “customer service agents” from their unhappy customers.

Predictably, Lee waited more than 30 minutes before his number was up.

Lee’s predicament is all too familiar. His only choice for high-speed Internet access is Comcast, and the cable company knows it. So just like your local Department of Motor Vehicles, there is no harm done if Comcast opens a customer service center with 10 available windows staffed by only two employees, one happily munching on pretzels ignoring the concert-length line during his 20-minute break.

Time Warner Cable’s service centers are not much better, although they usually have fewer windows to keep customers from getting their hopes up. Comcast’s bulletproof glass is also not in evidence at TWC locations, although the burly bank-like security guard is very apparent at some centers in sketchy neighborhoods. Time Warner Cable also offers seating, but visit wealthier suburban locations when possible, where comfortable couches replace the nasty hard benches or plastic furniture often found downtown.

Comcast was instantly ready to offer up the usual excuses:

Your recent visit to our Washington D.C. service center is certainly not the experience we want anyone to have. We’ve been working on  a multi-year project to revamp the hundreds of service centers we have around the country to better serve customers.  As part of that project, we will be remodeling the Michigan Avenue location and will open another service center in the District in early 2015.  We’re also introducing more options for customers to manage their accounts, including a new program we’re starting to roll out with The UPS Store to make them an authorized Comcast equipment return location.

It’s always better at Comcast sometime in the yet-to-be-determined future. Until then, suffer.

Share

FCC May Make Comcast/Time Warner Merger Contingent on Carriage of More TV Channels

cable tvJust when you thought the cable television lineup could not possibly get any larger,  insiders at Comcast are anticipating one of the possible conditions that could be imposed by the Federal Communications Commission in return for approval of its merger with Time Warner Cable is an agreement to carry more independently owned cable television channels.

One of the most vocal groups of consumers opposed to the merger deal have been viewers of independent Omaha, Neb.-based RFD-TV, which has landed carriage deals with Time Warner Cable but has been largely ignored by Comcast. For most of the summer, RFD-TV encouraged viewers to pelt the FCC with complaints about the merger deal, insisting that more networks not owned or operated by the top five media conglomerates get equal treatment on the Comcast cable dial. Thousands of viewers responded.

Comcast vice president David Cohen told Congress Comcast already carries more than 170 small or independent networks, although Comcast counts international networks distributed to customers at premium rates.

“It sounds wonderful. But when you peel back the onion . . . it’s really nothing at all,” Pat Gottsch, founder of RFD-TV told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “Very few [independent] channels have full distribution, other than BBC World News and Al Jazeera.”

Independent networks have little leverage with major cable operators because they cannot tie carriage agreements to more popular mainstream cable networks. That is why little-known networks like Crime & Investigation Channel or the spinoffs of fX – fXX and fXM – have glided onto cable lineups while networks like RFD, The Tennis Channel, and BlueHighways TV have a much tougher time.

Time Warner Cable now widely carries RFD-TV, but often only on an added-cost mini-pay tier. In many Time Warner markets, RFD and Smithsonian TV replaced HDNet, also an added-cost network.

rfdtv_logoThe independent networks fear they will never become viable if they cannot reach the nearly one-third of the country’s cable television subscribers a combined Comcast and Time Warner Cable would serve. Others question whether they will be given fair consideration if their networks compete with an existing Comcast or Time Warner Cable-owned channel.

The Tennis Channel and Bloomberg have both tussled repeatedly with Comcast over carriage agreements and channel placement. The Tennis Channel took Comcast all the way to a federal appeals court, but lost their case. Cable companies have won recognition of their First Amendment rights to choose the channels on their systems.

In years past, cable operators cited limited channel capacity as the most frequent reason a network could not be added to the lineup. Comcast continues to claim they have limited channel space for television channels, but that has not stopped the cable company from launching dozens of little-watched networks they receive compensation to carry (home shopping, TBN and certain other religious networks) or are contractually obligated to carry (add-on sports and entertainment networks owned by Disney, Viacom, Time Warner (Entertainment), Fox, and even Comcast itself, through its Universal division).

garbageComcast’s claim it already carries nearly 180 independent networks drew scrutiny when the company released the list of networks. At least half were added-cost international or pornography networks — all sold at a higher cost. More than a dozen others were independent sports channels packed into a higher-cost sports tier. Most of the rest were regional networks given very limited exposure. BlueHighways TV, which features bluegrass music, is seen in only 210,000 Comcast homes, mostly in Tennessee. That is less than 1% of Comcast’s total subscriber base.

The only prominent and truly independent networks given wide carriage on Comcast include Home Shopping Network and QVC, which pay a commission to Comcast for every sale made to a Comcast customer, BBC World News, and the Catholic EWTN network.

Mitigating the problem of independent network carriage may push the FCC to the path of least resistance – making carriage of some of these networks a requirement in return for merger approval.

It wouldn’t be the first time. Comcast agreed to launch 10 independent networks as a condition for FCC approval of its buyout of NBCUniversal. That deal is what brought BBC World News to the Comcast lineup, along with a range of little-known networks on high channel numbers: ASPiRE, BabyFirst Americas, Revolt, and El Rey. BabyFirst is targeted to babies and toddlers from 0-3 years old, but is also enjoyed by recreational drug users who find the network’s use of bright colors in their short-form videos entertaining. ASPiRE’s programming has been described by its critics as “crap.”

Share

N.Y. Regulators Predict Some Time Warner Customers Will Pay More Than Double to Comcast

Staff at the New York regulator overseeing the state’s telecommunications companies have determined that some Time Warner Cable customers will see their largest rate increase in New York history — more than double their current rate — if Comcast is successful in its bid to acquire Time Warner Cable.

At issue is Time Warner Cable’s heavily promoted ‘buy only what you need’ Every Day Low Price Internet service, which offers 2Mbps service for $14.99 a month.

Comcast has no plans to continue the discount offering, which means Internet customers will pay more than twice as much for Comcast’s cheapest Internet package available to all customers — Economy Plus (3Mbps), priced at $39.99 a month and only available at that price if you also subscribe to Comcast telephone or television service.

Time Warner Cable’s cheapest television package is priced at $8-20 a month. Comcast’s least-expensive TV package costs $17-20 a month.

“Time Warner’s lowest-priced offerings… represent choices for New York consumers,” Public Service Commission staff wrote in an Aug. 8 filing in the case, noted Albany’s Times-Union. “Any loss of these services would likely result in consumers paying more.”

Comcast denies it will raise prices for New Yorkers or any other Time Warner Cable customer, but noted it needs to study the “significant competition that it faces” before making any decisions on prices. When Comcast discovers Verizon FiOS isn’t providing much of a competitive threat in areas unreached after Verizon stalled its expansion efforts and AT&T U-verse and other telco broadband offerings cannot keep up with cable broadband speeds, they might assume they don’t face that much competition after all.

Share

Time Warner Cable Can Raise Pricing on 2-Year Promotions; Customer Sees $15 Surprise Rate Hike

fine printTime Warner Cable customers believing they can “lock in” prices for up to two years with one of the company’s service promotions might be surprised to learn the fine print allows the cable company to adjust prices after just one year of service, as this reddit user just discovered:

My bill went up $15. They tell me it’s ok because I’m still on the same promotion, it just went up in price. That I’m still saving over full retail price so it’s ok. The phrase “it’s only $15″ was used by the service rep.

This is complete bulls***.

edit: I really wish I thought ahead to record the call. Now that I’m off the phone he offered me a one time $15 credit to make next month better. Like that changes anything.

How can the term two-year promotion be used if it’s only good for 1 year you ask? Well Time Warner’s answer is that it’s still the same promotion, it just goes up after a year.

edit again: The one time $15 just posted to my account. They don’t even call it a customer service adjustment or anything, they call it a “Save a Sub adjustment.” Not even trying to hide it.

09/06/2014 Save a Sub Adj -15.00

This and many other Time Warner Cable customers probably missed the fine print, which reveals pricing for the promotion can, and often does, adjust after the first 6-12 months. Comcast, the potential new owner of Time Warner Cable, also runs promotions the same way. Here are examples from both companies:

Time Warner Cablecomcast twc: Three-product offers valid for new residential and existing customers. After 12 months, regular rates apply. Offers expire 10/19/14. Standard TV for $39.99 available for 12 months; in months 13-24, price will go up to $44.99; after month 24, price will go to retail.

Comcast: After first 6 months, monthly service charge increases to $109.99 for months 7-12. After 12 months, or if any service is cancelled or downgraded, regular charges apply. After 6 months, the monthly charge for HBO is $15 for 12 months and thereafter, regular rates apply.

Some cable operators bill promotions by charging the customer the regular price for service and then apply a fixed promotional credit for the length of the promotional offer. If rates increase during the promotion, the customer will see the rate increase on their bill and will end up paying more because the service credit they receive does not change to offset the increase.

Why are they allowed to do this? Because cable companies like Time Warner Cable have gradually moved away from term-length service contracts, especially where they do not face a new competitor like U-verse or FiOS entering their service area for the first time. With both competitors well-established, cable operators have moved away from two-year “contracts” to two-year “promotions,” but customers often do not know the difference.

This customer can switch providers at any time without a penalty. Instead he called and complained and received a one-time service credit. Chances are if he calls and threatens to cancel service, the retention agent will put him back on the original promotion or one offering a similar promotional price. The key word is “cancel,” which works like nothing else to motivate representatives to keep your business.

Share

Comcast Denies It Threatens Customers With Suspension for Using Anonymous Tor Web Browser

torComcast has strongly denied reports it threatened customers with service termination for using the Tor anonymous web browser, designed to obscure a web user’s identity or location.

Over the weekend, Deep.Dot.Web reported that Comcast agents were contacting customers using the Tor web browser and warned them their Internet access was in peril if they continued using the anonymous browsing software, claiming it was against Comcast’s acceptable use policy.

Allegedly, Comcast representatives “Jeremy” and “Kelly” claimed Tor was “an illegal service” and demanded the customers reveal the web sites they were attempting to reach using the browser.

The representative identified as “Kelly” claimed:

“Users who try to use anonymity, or cover themselves up on the Internet, are usually doing things that aren’t so-to-speak legal. We have the right to terminate, fine, or suspend your account at anytime due to you violating the rules. Do you have any other questions? Thank you for contacting Comcast, have a great day.”

The Tor browser was designed to protect the identity of its privacy-minded users from nosy government agencies and law enforcement elements, but has also been used to hide illegal activities ranging from child pornography and drug dealing to murder-for-hire and espionage-related activities. But the majority of the estimated four million Tor users rely on the browser primarily to help them overcome Internet censorship blocks or geographic restrictions on online video content.

Tor directs each user’s Internet traffic through a free, worldwide, volunteer network of more than five thousand relays to hide a user’s location and usage from anyone conducting network surveillance or traffic analysis. Technically, users who volunteer to run a relay may be in violation of Comcast’s acceptable use policy, which states (in part):

[Customers may not] use or run dedicated, stand-alone equipment or servers from the Premises that provide network content or any other services to anyone outside of your Premises local area network (“PremisesLAN”), also commonly referred to as public services or servers. Examples of prohibited equipment and servers include, but are not limited to, email, web hosting, file sharing, and proxy services and servers.

xfinitylogoBut whether the messages reported by Deep.Dot.Web were simply the result of an overeager support employee or actual company policy is now in dispute.

Comcast emphatically denied the customer contacts reported by Deep.Dot.Web ever took place and claimed Comcast has no restrictions on customers using the Tor browser.

“The anecdotal chat room evidence provided is not consistent with our agents’ messages and is not accurate,” said Comcast’s Charlie Douglas. “Per our own internal review, we have found no evidence that these conversations took place, nor do we employ a Security Assurance team member named Kelly. Comcast doesn’t monitor users’ browser software or web surfing, and has no program addressing the Tor browser. Customers are free to use their XFINITY Internet service to visit any website or use it however they wish.”

A company blog post this morning broadened the company’s denials:

Comcast is not asking customers to stop using Tor, or any other browser for that matter. We have no policy against Tor, or any other browser or software. Customers are free to use their Xfinity Internet service to visit any website, use any app, and so forth.

Here are the facts:

  • Comcast doesn’t monitor our customer’s browser software, web surfing or online history.
  • The anecdotal chat room evidence described in these reports is not accurate.
  • We respect customer privacy and security and only investigate and disclose certain information about a customer’s account with a valid court order or other appropriate legal process, just like other ISPs. More information about these policies can be found in our Transparency Report here.
  • We do not terminate customers for violating the Copyright Alert System (aka “six strikes”), which is a non-punitive, educational and voluntary copyright program. Read more here.
Share

Comcast Unveiling New, Faster Wireless Gateway; No Pricing Revealed But It Won’t Come Free

res gateway dpc3941In an effort to keep up with increasing bandwidth demands on customers’ home networks, Comcast has announced a new Cisco wireless gateway that supports 802.11ac and v2.0 of the Multimedia over Coax Alliance (MoCA) standard that supports a home broadband network over coaxial cable.

The new XFINITY Wireless Gateway will be Cisco’s DPC3941T, which includes a 3×3 MIMO design offering three spatial streams and 700Mbps speed across an 80MHz wide wireless data channel — two times faster than Comcast’s current fastest wireless gateway and considerably faster than competing gateways from AT&T and Verizon.

The new gateway includes a built-in DOCSIS 3.0 modem, but Comcast has not shared details about how many channels the unit can bond and it doesn’t support the next generation DOCSIS 3.1 standard.

The wireless gateway will not come free of charge, but Comcast has not indicated what the monthly lease fee will be. Many Comcast customers pay up to $8 a month to lease a wireless gateway/cable modem.

Only customers in selected markets will initially be able to get the new gateway due later this fall, with customers nationwide getting access sometime later. Comcast is inviting those interested to e-mail: [email protected] to learn when the new gateway becomes available.

Comcast’s newest model will support the XFINITY Wi-Fi project which opens up a community Wi-Fi hotspot on a separate wireless channel accessible to the public.

Comcast is expected to install eight million wireless gateways in customer homes by the end of this year.

Share

NY Post: Imposing Conditions on Comcast-Time Warner Cable Merger Would Be Useless

comcast cartoonIf regulators believe they can turn Comcast and Time Warner Cable’s mega-merger into a consumer-friendly deal in the public interest, they are ignoring history.

No matter what conditions regulators place on Comcast to approve its merger with Time Warner Cable, they will be toothless, television industry insiders told the New York Post.

Insiders suggest the Federal Communications Commission has been largely impotent enforcing conditions it required in earlier merger deals, including those Comcast promised to fulfill in its earlier merger with NBC Universal.

Among Comcast’s broken promises cited by The Post:

  • Comcast failed to live up to its promise to market its low-cost broadband service, Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), an outspoken critic of the NBCU deal, told the FCC earlier this year;
  • Comcast paid a fine for not marketing A standalone $50 broadband service widely enough;
  • The giant cable provider’s hollow commitment to Net Neutrality didn’t stop it from excluding certain XFINITY video content from its data caps;
  • They discriminate against non-Comcast owned cable channels, especially those that compete with network Comcast owns or controls. Examples include The Tennis Channel and Bloomberg TV.

Industry insiders claim the larger Comcast gets, the more the company spends on clever lawyering and lobbying to keep itself out of legal hot water with Congress and regulators. That has begun to worry programmers like Discovery Communications, who filed objections to the merger deal.

Discovery officials warned the FCC Comcast’s takeover of Time Warner Cable would deliver an NSA-like treasure trove of viewer data to the nation’s biggest cable company. Comcast already monitors its customers’ viewing habits with tracking software installed inside set-top boxes that monitors what customers are watching at any given time. Comcast has refused to share that data with outsiders, and uses it primarily to pitch potential advertisers.

Comcast’s size already gives the company unprecedented power over cable programming rates during negotiations. Making the company even larger worries Discovery, which expressed concern that:

  • Comcast’s use of its bigger muscle to impose prices, terms and conditions that are overly favorable (for instance, preventing programmers from selling over-the-top rights or refusing to give competitors to its own services wide distribution);
  • The possibility that the cable giant could impose broader “most favored nation” clauses in agreements;
  • That Comcast could exercise control over national and local ad sales markets to the detriment of programers who also compete there.
Share

Comcast Inserting Unwanted Ads On Its Customer-Hosted Wi-Fi Network

xfinity wifi peppy

(image: Ryan Singel)

Comcast has begun presenting intrusive advertising messages to users connected to any of its 3.5 million Wi-Fi hotspots nationwide, most hosted by customers paying more than $8 a month in leasing and electricity costs to provide a home for the company’s wireless gateways.

A Comcast spokesman confirmed to Ars Technica that Comcast began its ad insertions several months ago, ostensibly to alert users they are connected to an official Comcast Wi-Fi hotspot. But users report the company’s advertising messages go well beyond that, appearing about every seven minutes on every web page a customer visits. Some promote Comcast products and services, others invite customers to download the cable company’s apps. For now, they only appear on Comcast’s guest Wi-Fi network.

“We think it’s a courtesy, and it helps address some concerns that people might not be absolutely sure they’re on a hotspot from Comcast,” Comcast spokesman Charlie Douglas told Ars.

The most common ad seems to be a small banner dubbed “XFINITY Wi-Fi Peppy,” which can be closed by a user or eventually disappears on its own.

Although the ads are generally not exceptionally intrusive, often scooting across the bottom of web pages before disappearing, they are controversial because Comcast is injecting the advertising code into a third party’s website without permission.

Comcast is relying on JavaScript to insert its advertising and that has security experts concerned.

Seth Schoen, the senior staff technologist for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told Ars the interaction of Comcast’s JavaScript with websites could “create” security vulnerabilities in websites.

“Their code, or the interaction of code with other things, could potentially create new security vulnerabilities in sites that didn’t have them,” Schoen said in a telephone interview.

Dan Kaminsky added that Comcast’s JavaScript injection has the potential to break “all sorts of stuff, in that you no longer know as a website developer precisely what code is running in browsers out there. You didn’t send it, but your customers received it.”

Although Comcast is now using its ad insertion technology only to promote its own products and services, nothing legally precludes Comcast from selling ads it could insert on any web page it wishes. Current law doesn’t give the Federal Communications Commission authority to stop the practice. Only strong Net Neutrality protections made possible by a redefinition of broadband as a communications service would grant the FCC regulatory authority to forbid Internet providers from interfering with the integrity of third-party websites.

 

Share

Search This Site:

Contributions:

Recent Comments:

  • Carmine: Hi, My contract is up Oct 10th. AT&T wants to increase my Uverse and I-net (6MPS) by 34%. Today I just used your strategy and called the 800-288...
  • Tony: As frustrating as it is, I can tell you from our experience it is the cable company For us the tuning adapter's firmware was not up to date. Cur...
  • Vikki Karan: Count me in!! I'm willing to take this cause on as well! Willing to take it all the way to DC and/or file a class action suit. Here is my story: ...
  • RG: I see the V52 on occasion with Cox in San Diego. Sometimes it's a SDV box decode error, other times it's a channel that I'm not subscribed to or doesn...
  • Vikki Karan: Major TWC issues with TiVo here in Los Angeles. We keep getting V52 errors. TWC says it is an issue with the TiVo Roamio. That there are open tickets ...
  • Scott: GCI just raised Cable TV rates and fees across the board an additional $30/mo for all customers this last month, so most that were paying $135 for a t...
  • Jim Livermore: After all of the detail in the above article, your sole comment is a critique of my first sentence? Thank you, Anonymous Coward....
  • MadBomber: >While extortion might be a little strong... What do you call forcing a payment without proof of guilt then?...
  • Phillip Dampier: Hi, I was unable to get permission to share the report, but in response to your inquiry, I can share their reply that they are using "cash flow margin...
  • Theresa Bailey: Either Mr. Doda is lying, or there is a lack of consistency in following procedure among the Bright House representatives. When I signed up for B...
  • Jim Livermore: Another great report, Phillip. While extortion might be a little strong, it is a response to the 6-strike noise by a third party offering a middleman...
  • txpatriot: Phillip: do you have a link to the E&Y report? The reason I ask is because you refer to EBITDA margin as "cash flow margin". I know what EBI...

Your Account: