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Comcast Bans Twin Cities Wi-Fi Upstart’s Ads After Pointing Out Comcast CEO’s Salary on Billboards

USI Wireless' TV Ad was rejected by Comcast

“Our competitor’s CEO made $27 million last year. Ever wonder why you pay so much for Internet?”

That question is posed on an enormous billboard over downtown Minneapolis.  It comes courtesy of US Internet of Minnetonka, a tiny wireless provider competing against Comcast in Minneapolis.  The Wi-Fi upstart has taken center stage in another dispute with Comcast that threatens to have national implications.

For US Internet, the cable giant is already big enough to throw its weight around, because the Wi-Fi competitor has been notified it is not going to get its television ads seen by Comcast subscribers.

That struck Joe Caldwell, CEO of USI Wireless, as anti-competitive.

“I spent thousands of dollars to get this ad produced, and now Comcast won’t run it,” Caldwell told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. “I think maybe they’re mad at me because I said the CEO of Comcast made too much money.”

Although Caldwell’s billboard only names Comcast in fine print, barely visible from Minneapolis streets, his company’s door-hangers are more direct:

“We at USI Wireless would like to congratulate Qwest & Comcast for both having sports arenas named after them. Ever wonder why you pay so much for Internet?”

Comcast told Caldwell it could not run his ads because they are a competitor.

USI Wireless charges $14.95 a month for wireless access across the city.  Comcast charges between $40-115 for its standalone broadband service.

It’s not the first ad controversy for USI, which irritated some residents back in May with some edgy billboards featuring a woman some described as a prostitute next to big, bold print: “Fast, Cheap, and Satisfaction Guaranteed.”

USI got into some controversy with its earlier billboards, which raised more than a few eyebrows.

Caldwell’s television ad features Fancy Ray McCloney, head of Minneapolis-based ad agency Chocolate Orchid Productions, as its pitchman, loudly asking, “Why pay $30 to $60 a month when you can get the same quality service for as low as $14.95?”

McCloney adds salt to USI’s wounded bank account because, as he tells it, it was Comcast that invited him to produce the ad and get it running on the system.  McCloney claims a Comcast advertising representative contacted him after seeing the billboard and invited USI to buy TV advertising.

“They saw the billboards, and they asked if they could get some of that advertising business on Comcast cable,” McCloney told the Star-Tribune.

After Caldwell spent $7,500 producing the TV ad, Comcast now says it cannot run on their system.

A local Comcast spokesperson told the newspaper he didn’t know if McCloney’s story was true or not.  A national spokesperson for the cable company said Comcast decides on a case-by-case basis whether to take advertising for services that compete with Comcast.

The dispute threatens to have national implications as Comcast pushes to have its merger with NBC-Universal approved.

With ownership of additional broadcast outlets, would-be competitors to Comcast could find themselves banned from advertising on broadcast stations with ties to the cable operator.

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/USI Wireless Ad.flv

USI Wireless’ “banned” TV ad, which makes no mention of Comcast by name, or the current controversy.  (1 minute)

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  • bern jenkins: Good commentary . I loved the points - Does anyone know if I would be able to find a fillable a form form to fill in ?...
  • jennifer: Horrific customer service. But don't worry, I was assured I'd have a technician come fix my internet a week from today. :/...
  • Kyle: It has nothing to do with consumer choice on broadband. It has to do with unelected bureaucrats in the FCC, who are not accountable to congress (the p...
  • Bryan: I would never support anyone who directly or indirectly would want to limit consumer choices for internet. If a municipality can provide faster and c...
  • Kyle: The FCC is not a federal court. They should not be able to overturn state or local law. This has nothing to do with municipal broadband. It has to do ...
  • Johanna D.: Moved out of state for my job in March, was waiting for a final verizon bill, and received 3 bills from fronteir all dated the same day with different...
  • Clinton Kirk: It's not that Sen. Cruz is against the expansion of Broadband in growing communities. The issue is that it should be the States decision and not some...
  • Dahlia: If you do let me know, I will join. They try to say I used 865GB in one month and charged me an extra 20$ for overages. That is BS, there is no way in...
  • Sherice Cuadra: Timely article ! I learned a lot from the facts - Does anyone know if my business might be able to grab a blank a form copy to work with ?...
  • Ethan: A few months ago, TWC gave me a quote for $23,268 for 12 (!) pole permits and about 1600 feet of cable, even though there's a line only 5 poles and 80...
  • Mark: My ailing 85-yo mother, who lives in Yucaipa, CA, has been completely without phone service for almost A WHOLE MONTH now!!! She cannot call her doctor...
  • Raymundo: Us simple folk in FL can only dream of being as smart as you, Joe. Thank you for taking the time to explain things to us so we can understand them....

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