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Comcast Boosting Broadband Speeds in the Northeast

Comcast is raising internet speeds of several of its XFINITY internet service plans in the northeastern United States as it continues to battle Verizon’s fiber to the home network FiOS.

“With new devices coming online for consumers every day, we’re committed to offering the fastest speeds and the best features and overall experience so our customers can take advantage of the technology available,” said Kevin Casey, president of Comcast’s Northeast Division. “We’ve increased speeds 17 times in the last 17 years, and continue to invest to deliver a fast, innovative and reliable experience in and out of the home.”

  • Blast download speeds increase from 200 Mbps to 250 Mbps
  • Performance Pro download speeds increase from 100 Mbps to 150 Mbps
  • Performance download speeds increase from 25 Mbps to 60 Mbps
  • Starter download speeds increase from 10 Mbps to 15 Mbps

Most customers can expect to see an average increase of 35-50 Mbps of enhanced download speed starting sometime this month. There is no news if upload speeds are affected. It may be necessary to briefly unplug your cable modem to reset to the new speeds.

The changes will affect customers from Maine to Virginia. Comcast has already increased broadband speeds in parts of the midwest and west coast. The cable company says 80% of its internet customers now subscribe to broadband speeds of 150 Mbps or more.


Comcast Needed Help to Let Them Know Their Broadband Pipes Were Full

The country’s largest cable internet service provider needed help from an app developer in Portland, Ore. to let it know its broadband pipes were full and to do something about it.

Comcast customers were complaining about slow downloads from the Panic website and the company’s own workers were saying largely the same thing when attempting to remotely connect to the company’s servers from home.

Because Panic’s web servers have just a single connection to the internet via Cogent, it would be a simple matter to track down where the traffic bottleneck was occurring, assuming there was one. The company asked for volunteers to run a test transferring 20MB of data first from Panic’s server and then again from a control server hosted with Linode, a popular and well-respected hosting company.

The results were pretty stunning.

With speeds often around only 356.3kbps for Comcast customers connecting to Panic, something was definitely up. It also explained why employees had a rough time connecting to the company’s server as well — Panic’s workers are based in Portland, Ore., where Comcast is used by almost every employee.

The slowdowns were not related to the time of day and because the problem persisted for weeks, it wasn’t a temporary technical fault. Panic’s blog picks up the story about what is behind all this:


Major internet pipes, like Cogent, have peering agreements with network providers, like Comcast. These companies need each other — Cogent can’t exist if their network doesn’t go all the way to the end user, and Comcast can’t exist if they can’t send their customer’s data all over the world. One core tenet of peering is that it is “settlement-free” — neither party pays the other party to exchange their traffic. Instead, each party generates revenue from their customers. Cogent generates revenue from us. Comcast generates revenue from us at home. Everyone wins, right?

After a quick Google session, I learned that Cogent and Comcast have quite a storied history. This history started when Cogent started delivering a great deal of video content to Comcast customers… content from Netflix. and suddenly, the “peering pipe” that connects Cogent and Comcast filled up and slowed dramatically down.

Normally when these peering pipes “fill up”, more capacity is added between the two companies. But, if you believe Cogent’s side of the story, Comcast simply decided not to play ball — and refused to add any additional bandwidth unless Cogent paid them. In other words, Comcast didn’t like being paid nothing to deliver Netflix traffic, which competes with its own TV and streaming offerings. This Ars Technica article covers it well. (How did Netflix solve this problem in 2014? Netflix entered into a business agreement to pay Comcast directly. And suddenly, more peering bandwidth opened up between Comcast and Cogent, like magic.)

We felt certain history was repeating itself: the peering connection between Comcast and Cogent was once again saturated. Cogent said their hands were tied. What now?

In addition to giving the internet public policy community new evidence that peering fights leaving customers stuck in the middle might be heating up once again. It also suggests if Comcast was unaware of the problem, it does not reflect well on the cable company to wait weeks until a customer reports such a serious slowdown before fixing it.

The folks at Panic took a chance and reported the problem to Comcast, bypassing the usual customer support route in favor of a corporate contact who listed a direct email address on the company’s website. Comcast took the request seriously and eventually responded, “give us one to two weeks, and if you re-run your test I think you’ll be happy with the results.”

Indeed, the problem was fixed. The folks at Panic say according to Comcast, two primary changes were made:

  1. Comcast added more capacity for Cogent traffic. (As suspected, the pipe was full.)
  2. Cogent made some unspecified changes to their traffic engineering.

The folks at Panic and their users are happy that the problem is fixed, but some questions remain:

  1. Is Comcast intentionally throttling web traffic in an attempt to extract a more favorable peering agreement with Cogent?
  2. How could Comcast not know this particular connection was hopelessly over-capacity for several weeks, leaving customers to deal with heavily throttled traffic.

“While this story amazingly had a happy ending, I’m not looking forward to the next time we’re stuck in the middle of a peering dispute between two companies,” wrote Cabel. “It feels absolutely inevitable, all the more so now that net neutrality is gone. Here’s hoping the next time it happens, the responsible party is as responsive as Comcast was this time.”

Panic explains internet slowdowns resulting from peering disputes in this (3:30) video.

Comcast Makes Surprise $31 Billion Bid for UK’s Sky Satellite Service

Comcast Corporation today made a surprise $31 billion bid to acquire Sky, the British-based satellite TV, internet, and wireless provider, disrupting a rival bid from 21st Century Fox, which spent years trying to acquire the 61% of Sky it doesn’t already own.

Comcast’s bid of £12.50 a share to acquire Sky outright is significantly higher than the £10.75/share offer Fox made to take total control of the satellite venture. A third player – Disney, has been in talks with Fox to acquire a substantial number of its assets, including its minority ownership stake in Sky, for $52 billion. But Comcast’s bid may change everything.

That three American companies are now competing to acquire Europe’s largest media company and biggest pay-TV broadcaster, with more than 23 million subscribers, could create concern among some regulators about foreign ownership of the media. A bid from Comcast is likely to be less controversial than dealing with Rupert Murdoch, however, who already has extensive media holdings in the United Kingdom.

There are three distinct possible bidders for Sky now:

  • Comcast, which prefers to take 100% ownership but will accept a majority stake shared with Fox (or possibly Disney).
  • Disney wants minority stake in Sky through its $52+ billion acquisition of some of Fox’s assets, including Fox’s part-ownership in Sky.
  • Fox, which has sought to take full control of Sky for several years but has met with resistance was originally the most likely buyer. But more recently, Rupert Murdoch has recently shown a willingness to sell some of Fox’s assets, including Sky, if the price is right.

Sky’s share price leaped more than 20% today to £13.47—well above the Comcast offer—as investors believe there will be a bidding war over Sky. Because many hedge funds and investors expect Fox will increase its bid to match Comcast, in turn boosting the value of Sky’s stock, investors are accumulating shares at a rapid pace and driving up share prices further.

Sky has become increasingly valuable because it isn’t just a satellite TV provider. Sky also develops its own original productions, has valuable sports rights deals, and sells broadband and mobile phone service. American media companies are consolidating, preferring to own both the pipes that deliver internet content and the content itself. Acquiring Sky would allow Fox, Disney, and/or Comcast to showcase its own productions in Europe and to a lesser extent import Sky products into the United States.

Regulators in the United Kingdom are likely to press any buyer to protect the independence of Sky News, a well-regarded 24-hour news channel. Many expect regulators to insist that Sky’s buyer  agree to fund Sky for at least 10 years and guarantee its editorial independence.

Comcast Grabs $1,000 from Checking Account of Non-Subscribing North Dakota Resident

Phillip Dampier February 1, 2018 Comcast/Xfinity, Consumer News, Video 6 Comments

Comcast took more than $1,000 out of a West Fargo, N.D., resident’s checking account, despite the fact she isn’t a customer and Comcast doesn’t offer cable service in North Dakota.

Becky Phelps is stuck in limbo after the cable giant took the money and is now dragging its feet refunding it, according to a report by Valley News Live. Customer service has proven itself unhelpful because Phelps cannot produce a Comcast account number she never had.

“They kept asking for an account number and I was like, ‘I don’t have an account with you guys. Why am I being charged?’,” said Phelps. The customer service agent quickly disconnects the call after that, leaving Phelps frustrated and out a lot of money. “That money was set for other bills. It’s made it really tough for us because we’ve had to dig into what savings we have, just to cover those differences.”

Her bank has run into a similar brick wall with Comcast reversing the charge, despite the fact the cable company now willingly admits her debit card information was probably stolen.

Comcast claims it has referred the matter to its fraud team, but little has happened since.

Banks strongly recommend if you see unauthorized purchases on your account, call the bank immediately and initiate a chargeback. Because Phelps’ debit card number was compromised, funds were immediately removed from her checking account. If the purchases appeared on a credit card, a customer service representative could start a chargeback and advise you not to pay the disputed amount. But it gets more complicated with debit cards because Comcast already has Phelps’ money.

Valley News Live reports Comcast stole $1,000 out of her checking account for cable service she does not have in a state Comcast does not serve. (2:44)

Washington State Issues Ripoff Alert About Comcast’s Service Protection Plan

Phillip Dampier January 30, 2018 Comcast/Xfinity, Consumer News, Public Policy & Gov't 4 Comments

Washington’s Attorney General on Monday issued a consumer alert targeting Comcast for billing customers for its Service Protection Plan (SPP) without consent.

Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced in December new evidence obtained as part of his ongoing lawsuit against the cable and internet giant revealed that Comcast may have signed up more than half of all SPP subscribers without their consent. Since Ferguson filed an amended lawsuit, the Attorney General’s Office received more than 100 complaints from Comcast customers, including 74 about the SPP. Of those, more than 50 claim Comcast added the plan to their account without their consent.

Comcast markets the $5.99/mo plan as insurance against surprising service call fees or inside wiring replacement costs. But Ferguson accused Comcast of not clearly disclosing that its service plan does not cover one important and common expense customers with wiring problems could encounter — repairing defective wiring “wall-fished” inside walls. In many cases, SPP customers were told to hire an independent electrician to manage wall-fish installations and repairs.

Ferguson initially filed a $100 million lawsuit against Comcast in August 2016 alleging deceptive conduct and racking up more than 1.8 million violations of Washington’s Consumer Protection Act. More than half a million Comcast subscribers in the state subscribe to its SPP, delivering Comcast more than $73 million in revenue  from 2011-2015. Ferguson claims many customers were told they would be enrolled for free, only to later discover an ongoing $5.99 fee on each monthly bill.

“This new evidence makes clear that Comcast’s conduct is even more egregious than we first realized,” Ferguson said. “The extent of their deception is shocking, and I will hold them accountable for their treatment of Washington consumers.”




Comcast’s fight to keep Washington’s Attorney General from hearing how it markets its SPP

In May 2017, King County Superior Court Judge Timothy Bradshaw ordered Comcast to provide the Attorney General’s Office with “telephone calls that exist in which [Comcast] sold the SPP to Washington consumers.” In response to the court order, Comcast turned over to the Attorney General’s Office recordings of calls between Comcast and 1,500 Washington consumers whom Comcast signed up for the SPP.

The Attorney General’s Office analyzed a random sample of recorded sales calls between Comcast and 150 Washingtonians. Comcast did not even mention the SPP to nearly half the sample. Additional consumers in the sample explicitly rejected the SPP, but Comcast signed them up anyway. Consequently, Comcast enrolled more than half of these subscribers without their consent.

Even when Comcast actually mentioned the SPP on the sales call before signing consumers up for the SPP, Comcast continued to engage in deception. Comcast deceptively failed to disclose the SPP was a monthly recurring charge to 20 percent of the Washingtonians in the sample. Rather, Comcast often told subscribers the SPP was added for “free” to their account.

According to Comcast’s own data, more than 75% of SPP subscribers sign up via the telephone. Comcast operates call centers in Washington state, Colorado, Minnesota and Texas, as well as throughout the world in the Philippines, Mexico and Guyana. Comcast paid call center staff up to $5 for every SPP sale they made.

Comcast does not instruct its employees to send customers any information about the SPP via email, text message, mail, or refer the customer to Comcast’s website while the call is occurring and the customer is considering whether to enroll in the SPP. Rather, Comcast only provides oral representations about the SPP.

The Attorney General’s Office alleges this pattern of deception is a systemic issue throughout Comcast’s marketing and “sale” of the SPP, and represents potentially tens of thousands of new violations of the Washington state Consumer Protection Act.

Comcast had spent over a year fighting the Attorney General’s Investigative Demand notice that required the company to preserve and produce recordings between Comcast employees and customers who bought the SPP. In May 2017, Comcast’s attorneys finally admitted the company deleted 90% of the call recordings it was originally compelled to produce.


Ferguson is seeking full restitution of the $73 million Comcast collected from Washington subscribers along with penalties that will cost Comcast over $100 million if the company is found to be liable.

Ferguson is still enlisting affected customers in his legal effort. Check your bill — if you believe you’re being charged for the SPP without your consent, file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office.

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