One Comcast Center]], the headquarters of Comcast in Philadelphia, PA. The old Comcast logo from 1969 to 1999, when it was replaced with the current crescent logo. Comcast Corporation (, ) is the largest cable operator, home Internet service provider, and third largest home telephone service provider in the United States, providing cable television, broadband Internet, telephone service and home security [in some areas] to both residential and commercial customers in 40 states and the District of Columbia.
The company is headquartered in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Comcast also has significant holding in several cable networks (including E! Entertainment Television, Style Network, G4, The Golf Channel and NBC Sports Network), distribution (ThePlatform), and related businesses. Comcast acquired a majority stake in media conglomerate NBCUniversal in January 2011. Comcast has been the subject of criticism for activities including its stance on net neutrality, as well as poor results on customer satisfaction surveys.
Comcast Cable was originally formed as American Cable Systems in 1963 and was founded by Ralph J. Roberts, Daniel Aaron, and Julian A. Brodsky based on a recommendation from Pete Musser, who brought the deal to Ralph Roberts to buy his first cable system in Tupelo, Mississippi. The company was incorporated in Pennsylvania in 1969, under the new name Comcast Corporation. The name "Comcast" is a portmanteau of the words "Communication" and "Broadcast".
Over a number of years, Comcast became majority owner of Spectacor (renamed to Comcast Spectacor), Comcast SportsNet (in Chicago, Michigan, Philadelphia, Washington DC/Baltimore, New England, the San Francisco Bay Area, the Pacific Northwest and metro Sacramento), as well as E! Entertainment Television, Style Network, G4, The Golf Channel and NBC Sports Network (formerly the Outdoor Life Network, then Versus). In 2006, Comcast started a new sports channel SportsNet New York in the greater New York City region, in partnership with the New York Mets and Time Warner Cable.
Comcast also has a variety network known as Comcast Network, available exclusively to Comcast and Cablevision subscribers. The channel shows news, sports, and entertainment and places emphasis in Philadelphia and the Baltimore/Washington, D.C. areas, though the channel is also available in New York, Pittsburgh, and Richmond. In August 2004, Comcast started a channel called CET (Comcast Entertainment Television), available only to Colorado Comcast subscribers, and focusing on life in Colorado. It also carries some National Hockey League (NHL) and National Basketball Association (NBA) games when Altitude Sports & Entertainment is carrying the NHL or NBA. In January 2006, CET became the primary channel for Colorado's Emergency Alert System in the Denver Metro Area.
In 1996, Comcast launched Comcast Online, a broadband Internet service. Comcast purchased Sarasota Online, then one of the largest Internet providers in Florida and owned by entrepreneur Richard Swier and quickly expanded Internet service into over 30 cities. Comcast's Internet service has 18.582 million customers as of March 30, 2012.
The UK division was sold to NTL in 1998. After the sale of their cellular division to SBC Communications of San Antonio and the acquisition of Greater Philadelphia Cablevision in 1999, Comcast and MediaOne announced a $60 billion merger which did not occur until three years later (as AT&T Broadband). In addition, Comcast rebranded around that time and began to employ the logo that continues to be used to this day.
In 2002, Comcast paid the University of Maryland $25 million for naming rights to the new basketball arena built on the College Park campus, named Comcast Center.
On January 3, 2005, Comcast announced that it would become the anchor tenant in a new skyscraper in downtown Philadelphia, to be named the Comcast Center, not to be confused with the Maryland arena mentioned above. The skyscraper is the tallest building in Pennsylvania.
In December 2005, Comcast announced the creation of Comcast Interactive Media (CIM), a new division focused on online media.
As of September 30, 2010, Comcast serves a total of 22.9 million cable customers, 16.7 million high-speed Internet customers, and 8.4 million voice customers. Comcast is headquartered in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and also has corporate offices in Atlanta, Detroit, Denver, and Manchester, New Hampshire.
Comcast announced in May 2007 and launched in September 2008 a dashboard called SmartZone. Customers can use the service most likely sometime that year according to the Daily Herald near Chicago, quoting a Comcast spokesperson. HP or Hewlett-Packard led "design, creation and management". Collaboration and unified messaging technology came from open-source vendor Zimbra, according to IDG News Service, who spoke with a Comcast spokesperson the previous year. "SmartZone users will be able to send and receive e-mail, listen to their voicemail messages online and forward that information via e-mail to others, send instant messages and video instant messages and merge their contacts into one address book", according to IDG. IDG also noted Cloudmark spam and phishing protection and Trend Micro antivirus. The address book is Comcast Plaxo software.
Comcast announced for the end of 2008 a new network congestion management technique, after receiving no complaints over the summer in five market trials which were held in Warrenton, Virginia; Chambersburg, Pennsylvania; Colorado Springs, Colorado; Lake View, Florida; and East Orange, Florida.
Comcast signed a product development and distribution agreement with ABC Radio that will bring branded content from E! Entertainment, Style Network and G4 to terrestrial radio affiliates.
On December 1, 2009, CNBC reported that a tentative agreement had been reached between Comcast and GE. The deal was formally announced on December 3, 2009. Under the agreement, NBC Universal would be 51% owned by Comcast and 49% by GE. Comcast is to pay $6.5 billion cash to GE. Comcast will also contribute $7.5 billion in programming including regional sports networks and cable channels such as Golf Channel and E! Entertainment Television. GE plans to use some of the funds, $5.8 billion, to buy out Vivendi's 20% minority stake in NBC Universal. After the transaction completes, Comcast will reserve the right to buy out GE's share at certain times. GE will also reserve the right to force the sale of their stake within the first seven years. The deal was completed in January 2011, with Comcast taking over as NBC's majority owner.
Comcast holds the Consumerist 2010 Worst Company In America award. A gold trophy in the shape of a pile of human feces was delivered to Comcast Corporate Headquarters to commemorate the unmatched level of enmity flowing from their customer base to their business. Competitor Verizon congratulated Comcast on their award via the Verizon Twitter feed. Comcast immediately publicly acknowledged the award, claiming ongoing effort to improve their customer service.
170px Xfinity is the name for the re-branded triple play services in Comcast's largest markets, which include the company's digital cable, cable Internet access, and cable telephone services. Smaller markets currently will retain the Comcast branding for all services until they have been upgraded to full digital services.
A major push involving the new Xfinity branding took place during the 2010 Winter Olympics coverage on NBC, which was in the early stages of a merger with Comcast. The company proposed adding more HD channels, foreign language programming, video on demand content (especially with the end of analog cable by 2012), and more programming on its Fancast.com video portal. Additionally, the company is likely to push faster Internet bandwidth along with DOCSIS 3.0 cable modem service where available under the new branding.
According to Comcast, the name Xfinity stands for infinite content choices and cross-platform features.
The Xfinity rebranding has been controversial since its introduction, said to be nothing more than an effort to sidestep the negativity of the "Comcast" brand name. In February 2010, TIME listed Xfinity at number 1 in their Top 10 Worst Corporate Name Changes list.
The name changes for each of the triple play services are as follows: Comcast Digital Cable is now called "Xfinity TV", Comcast Digital Voice is now called "Xfinity Voice", and Comcast High Speed Internet is now called "Xfinity Internet".
Comcast Business Class services remain under the "Comcast" name.
Comcast has 18.582 million high-speed internet customers as of March 30, 2012.
Currently available Comcast High-Speed Internet Plans:
||1.1, 2.0, 3.0
||1.1, 2.0, 3.0
||In Some Areas
||1.1, 2.0, 3.0
||Up to 20Mbit/s with PowerBoost
||Up to 4Mbit/s with PowerBoost
||Up to 30Mbit/s with PowerBoost
||Up to 6Mbit/s with PowerBoost
||Variable speeds depending on area
||DOCSIS 3 Only Upload speed will depend on how the package is purchased. If purchased at regular rate of $99.95-$116.95, upload speed will be 15Mbit/s per second. If promotion for $69.99 or $79.99 is chosen, upload speed will remain at 10Mbit/s. (CERTAIN AREAS ONLY)
||DOCSIS 3 Only Upload of 20Mbit/s only available if the $105 12-month promotion plan is chosen. If plan for $199.95 or $129.95 (in areas where Extreme 50 isn't available) is chosen, upload speed will only be at 10Mbit/s.
"Excessive bandwidth" Policy
Comcast broadband has a controversial 250GB-per-month data transfer cap, which went into effect on October 1, 2008. This policy is also reflected in Comcast Network Management page. The cap combines both upload and download for the total limit. If a user exceeds the cap, on a first offense, a warning email and/or phone call will be issued with information on how to track bandwidth usage by suggesting software monitoring programs. On the third offense within the next six months, the customer's residential services are terminated for one year. Comcast reserves the right to suspend any customer's internet service to examine their servers and it is up to their sole discretion on whether to issue a refund or not. Comcast reserves the right to do this without any notification. The monitoring window is from the first to last day of each calendar month.
Comcast has a policy of terminating broadband customers who use "excessive bandwidth", a term the company refused to define in its terms of service, which once said only that a customer's use should not "represent (in the sole judgment of Comcast) an overly large burden on the network." Company responses to press inquiries suggest a limit of several hundred gigabytes per month. In September 2007, Comcast spokesman Charlie Douglas said the company defines "excessive use" as the equivalent of 30,000 songs, 250,000 pictures or 13 million emails in a month. Other company statements have said the limit varied from month to month, depending on the capacity of specific CMTS's, and that it affected only the top one-thousandth of high-speed Internet customers.
- According to the Comcast High Speed Internet terms of service, residential customers are provided with dynamic IP addresses.
- Comcast's "PowerBoost" delivers bursts for all but their highest-end and lowest-end tiers, allowing subscribers to use all excess cable node capacity to speed up the first few seconds of downloads.
On September 4, 2008 Comcast sued the FCC over findings that the previous Network Management policy illegally interfered with BitTorrent traffic on the Comcast network.
At the start of 2012, Comcast stood as the United States' third-largest residential telephone provider. At that time the company supplied 9.34 million residential telephone lines.
Business class services
In addition to residential consumers, Comcast also serves businesses as customers, targeting both small businesses with fewer than 20 employees and also mid-sized businesses of 20-500 employees. In 2009, Minneapolis Saint Paul became the first city in which Comcast Business Class offered 100 Mbit/s Internet service, which includes Microsoft Communication Services. Comcast Business Class Internet service does not have a bandwidth usage cap. In May 2011, Comcast announced its Metro Ethernet services, which are available in 20 major U.S. markets, including Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Harrisburg (Pa.), Hartford, Houston, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Miami, Nashville, state of New Jersey, Oakland, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Portland, Sacramento, Salt Lake City, San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle, Washington D.C. and western New England. Comcast offers four types of Metro Ethernet services: Ethernet Private Line, Ethernet Virtual Private Line, Ethernet Network Service, and Ethernet Network Dedicated Access, that are available in speeds from one Megabit per second up to 10 Gigabits per second.
Comcast Business services were initially sold exclusively through direct sales employees. On March 14, 2011, Comcast created an indirect sales channel called the Solution Provider Program, a comprehensive indirect channel program that enables telecommunications consultants and system integrators to sell Comcast s services such as Business Class Internet, Voice, and high-capacity Ethernet services to small and mid-market businesses. The program offers recurring commissions for sales partners based on monthly revenue, and Comcast will provide, install, manage and bill for these services. For the initial launch of the Solutions Provider Program, Comcast enlisted three national master representatives Telarus, based in Salt Lake City, Utah, Intelisys, based in Petaluma, California; and Telecom Brokerage Inc (TBI), based in Chicago. Sub-agent sales partners must work with one of these three partners in the early stages of the program. The head of the Comcast Business channel is Craig Schlagbaum, former head of the Level 3 Communications channel.
Comcast not only delivers third-party programming content to its own customers, but also produces content that is delivered to both its subscribers and customers of other competing television services. This is a way to diversify Comcast's revenue to both sides of the content/delivery equation. Fully or partially owned Comcast programming includes Comcast Newsmakers, Comcast Network, Comcast SportsNet, SportsNet New York, MLB Network, Comcast Sports Southeast/Charter Sports Southeast, E! Entertainment, Style Network, G4, NBC Sports Network, The Golf Channel, AZN Television, and FEARnet.
Acquisitions and joint ventures
Comcast bought 25% of Group W Cable in 1986, doubling its size. Two years later, it purchased a 50% share in Storer Communications, Inc. Comcast acquired American Cellular Network Corporation the same year before combining with Metrophone in 1990. Comcast became the third largest cable operator in 1994 following its purchase of Maclean-Hunter's American division. Comcast owned the majority of the electronic retailer QVC from 1995 to 2004 when its share was sold to Liberty Media. Following other acquisitions, Microsoft invested $1 billion in Comcast in 1997.
In 2001, Comcast announced it would acquire the assets of the largest cable television operator at the time, AT&T Broadband (AT&T's spun-off cable TV service) for US$44.5 billion. In 2002, Comcast acquired all assets of AT&T Broadband, thus making Comcast the largest cable television company in the United States with over 22 million subscribers. This also spurred the start of Comcast Advertising Sales (using AT&T's groundwork) which would later be renamed Comcast Spotlight. As part of this acquisition, Comcast also acquired the National Digital Television Center in Centennial, Colorado as a wholly owned subsidiary, which is today known as the Comcast Media Center.
Proposed merger name logo, 2001 When it was first announced that AT&T Broadband and Comcast were going to merge, the chosen name for the new company was "AT&T Comcast". That decision was changed so as to not confuse current and future investors in the company, and the merged company retained the Comcast name.
On February 11, 2004, Comcast surprised the media industry by announcing an unsolicited $66 billion bid for The Walt Disney Company, a deal that would have made Comcast the largest media conglomerate in the world. After rejection by Disney and uncertain response from investors, the bid was abandoned in April. The deal would have also required Comcast to sell off either the Philadelphia Flyers (which they own through Comcast Spectacor) or the Disney-owned Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, since they wouldn't be permitted to own two NHL teams. It was later discovered that the deal was mostly for Comcast to acquire one of Disney's most profitable operations, ESPN, in an attempt to expand its sports reach. Comcast then opted to rename OLN as Versus (then as NBC Sports Network in 2012) and expand their sports coverage with the Tour de France and the NHL. Comcast's NHL deal also obligated them to launch a U.S. version of NHL Network by the summer of 2007. The network finally launched in October 2007. Disney later sold the now-Anaheim Ducks to Henry Samueli in 2005 in an unrelated transaction.
Comcast announced on March 25, 2004 that its new gaming-oriented television network G4 (operated by subsidiary G4 Media, Inc.) would acquire Vulcan Venture's technology-oriented television network TechTV. The deal was finalized on May 10, 2004 and the two networks became G4techTV on May 28, 2004. On January 11, 2005, Comcast announced that it would drop TechTV from the station's name and again be known as "G4".
On April 8, 2005, a partnership led by Comcast and Sony Pictures Entertainment finalized a deal to acquire MGM and its affiliate studio, United Artists, and create an additional outlet to carry MGM/UA's material for cable and Internet distribution.
On October 31, 2005, Comcast officially announced that it had acquired Susquehanna Communications (SusCom,) a York, PA-based cable television and broadband services provider and unit of the former Susquehanna Pfaltzgraff company, for a net cash investment of approximately $540 million. In this deal Comcast acquired approximately 230,000 basic cable customers, 71,000 digital cable customers, and 86,000 high-speed Internet customers. Comcast previously owned approximately 30 percent of Susquehanna Communications.
On April 3, 2007, Comcast announced it had entered into an agreement to acquire the cable systems owned and operated by Patriot Media, a privately held company owned by cable veteran Steven J. Simmons, Spectrum Equity Investors and Spire Capital, that serves approximately 81,000 video subscribers. Comcast will acquire Patriot for a net cash investment of approximately $483 million. By acquiring the niche provider the deal will plug a hole in its central New Jersey service.
In April 2005, Comcast and Time Warner Cable announced plans to buy Adelphia Cable. $17.6 billion was to be paid (partly in stock) in the deal that was finalized in the second quarter of 2006 after the FCC completed a seven-month investigation without raising an objection. Time Warner Cable would become the second largest cable provider in the U.S., ranking behind Comcast. As part of the same deal, Time Warner and Comcast would also trade existing subscribers to create larger clusters of customers for each company in various geographical areas.. As a part of this subscriber exchange, Comcast and Time Warner transferred contracts for multiple dwelling units. For Comcast, analysis of these contracts were conducted by GAMI LLC http://gamillc.com/, an IT enabled BPO 2.0 (Business Process Outsourcing) firm in Philadelphia western suburbs.
The changes became effective on August 1, 2006. As an example, Comcast's systems in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex were traded to TWC in exchange for Time Warner's North Louisiana market, which covers Shreveport and Monroe. Also, Comcast in Los Angeles Area was traded with TWC. Parts of the Orange County area (Fullerton, Buena Park, etc.) that were Adelphia were originally Comcast subscribers until the early 2000s.
Also in August 2006, Comcast and Time Warner dissolved a partnership that controlled the systems in the Houston, Southwest Texas, San Antonio, and Kansas City markets. After the dissolution, Comcast obtained the Houston system, and Time Warner retained the others. On January 1, 2007, Comcast officially took control of the Houston system, but continued to operate under the Time Warner Cable brand in the interim. As of June 19, 2007, the Time Warner name was officially retired and replaced by Comcast.
Comcast also took over Adelphia systems in the State College, Pennsylvania area in addition to the Lewistown, Pennsylvania area. The company also took over Adelphia's systems in the Pittsburgh market, combining those systems with Comcast's already-large market share in the region (Comcast entered Pittsburgh through the AT&T Broadband deal). Aside from the satellite companies and small areas with Armstrong Cable (and more recently Verizon FiOS), Comcast effectively has a monopoly in the Pittsburgh region.
In early 2007, Comcast took over Adelphia operations in Palm Beach, Broward, Hillsborough, and Miami-Dade Counties in Florida and Bartow, Pickens, Cherokee, and Forsyth Counties in Georgia, as well as customers in Colorado.
In July 2006, Comcast purchased the Seattle-based software company thePlatform. This represented an entry into a new line of business selling software to allow companies to manage their Internet (and IP-based) media publishing efforts. Customers of thePlatform include Verizon Wireless, BBC Worldwide, PBS, CNBC, CBS College Sports, and HiT Entertainment . thePlatform also provides media access for Hulu and XfinityTV.com (formerly Fancast.com).
In May 2008 Comcast purchased Plaxo for a reported $150 million to $170 million.
ESPNU and ESPN3.com
On May 19, 2009, Disney and ESPN Media Networks and Comcast Corporation announced an agreement to add ESPNU to its Digital Classic level of service. Comcast added ESPNU to a majority of its cable systems in time for the start of the 2009 college football season. This includes Comcast's southern systems which enjoys coverage of ESPNU's new Saturday game-of-the-week Southeastern Conference (SEC) package. With this agreement, ESPNU has more than 46 million subscribers.
In the same agreement, it was announced that ESPN360.com (now ESPN3.com) the sports company's U.S. live sports broadband network would be made available to all Comcast high speed Internet subscribers. ESPN3.com provides live streaming of more than 3,500 sports events from around the world annually. Programming includes major soccer leagues, US college football, basketball, baseball and softball, NBA, MLB, coverage of major golf and tennis tournaments (such as tennis "grand slam" events, the US Open and Wimbledon). With the agreement ESPN360.com became available to nearly 41 million homes, a majority of broadband homes in America.
On March 25, 2004, Comcast's G4 gaming channel announced a merger with TechTV. This move became hugely controversial among loyal fans of TechTV and its well known personality Leo Laporte. Around May 6, G4 announced the termination of 250 employees from the San Francisco office by July 10, 2004, allowing approximately 80 to 100 employees to transition to G4's main office in Los Angeles, California if they agreed to relocate there.
On May 10, 2004, G4 Media completed the acquisition of TechTV from Vulcan. G4techTV was launched in the U.S. and Canada on May 28, 2004. This led to the cancellation of many of the TechTV channels throughout carriers across the world. On January 3, 2005, TechTV International began airing select programs from G4techTV.
On February 15, 2005, the TechTV brand was dropped from the United States G4techTV feed, leaving the network name as G4 Video Game Television; since then, G4 has gone through a rebranding into a male oriented network. With the departure of ZDTV-era employee Adam Sessler in April 2012, Morgan Webb is currrently the sole TechTV-era employee remaining with the network. Comcast also acquired 33.33% of G4 Canada in addition to its US channel in the sale of TechTV.
U.S. Olympic Network
The U.S. Olympic Committee and Comcast intended to team up to create The U.S. Olympic Network, which was slated to launch after the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games. These plans were then put on hold by the U.S. Olympic Committee. The U.S. Olympic Committee and Comcast have ended the plans to create The U.S. Olympic Network.
Media outlets began reporting in late September 2009 that Comcast was in talks to buy NBC Universal. Comcast denied the rumors at first, while NBC would not comment on them. However, CNBC itself reported on October 1 that General Electric was considering spinning NBCUniversal off into a separate company that would merge the NBC television network and its cable properties such as USA Network, Syfy and MSNBC with Comcast's content assets. GE would maintain 49% control of the new company, while Comcast owned 51%. Vivendi, which owns 20%, would have to sell its stake to GE. It's been reported under the current deal with GE that it would happen in November or December. It was also reported that Time Warner would be interested in placing a bid, until Jeffrey L. Bewkes (the CEO) came out and said "No", leaving it highly unlikely that Comcast would have any other bids to worry about.
On November 1, 2009, The New York Times reported Comcast had moved closer to a deal to purchase NBCUniversal and that a formal announcement could be made sometime the following week. On December 3, 2009, the parties announced that Comcast will take a controlling 51% stake in NBCUniversal.
On January 18, 2011, the FCC approved the deal by a vote of 4 to 1. The sale was completed on January 28, 2011.
The book value of the company nearly doubled from $8.19 a share in 1999 to $15 a share in 2009. Revenues grew sixfold from 1999's $6 billion to almost $36 billion in 2009. Net profit margin rose from 4.2% in 1999 to 8.4% in 2009, with operating margins improving 31 percent and return on equity doubling to 6.7 percent in the same time span. Between 1999 and 2009, return on capital nearly tripled to 7 percent.
Comcast reported first quarter 2012 profit increases of 30% due to increase in high-speed internet customers.
Comcast had been rated highly in "top places to work" lists. In 2009, it was listed in CableFAX magazine's "Top 10 Places to Work in Cable", which cited its "scale, savvy and vision". Similarly, the Philadelphia Business Journal awarded Comcast the silver medal among extra-large companies in Philadelphia, with the gold medal going to partner organization, Comcast-Spectacor. The Boston Globe found Comcast to be that city's top place to work in 2009.
Employee diversity is also an attribute upon which Comcast receives strong marks. In 2008, Black Enterprise magazine rated Comcast among the top 15 companies for workforce diversity.
Despite high ratings in these fields, Comcast has earned a reputation for being "anti-union." According to one of the company's training manuals, "Comcast does not feel union representation is in the best interest of its employees, customers, or shareholders." A dispute in 2004 with CWA, a labor union that represented many employees at Comcast's offices in Beaverton, Oregon, led to allegations of management intimidating workers, requiring them to attend anti-union meetings and unwarranted disciplinary action for union members. In 2011, Comcast received criticism from Writers Guild of America for its policies in regards to unions.
In November 2006 Comcast announced it would add NFL Network on digital tiers in time for the eight-game Thursday- and Saturday-night package. In August 2007 Comcast moved NFL Network from the digital tiers to the Sports Entertainment Package. This led to a lawsuit between NFL Network and Comcast, with the ruling in favor of Comcast. Comcast sent NFL Network a cease-and-desist letter to stop encouraging subscribers to leave Comcast. Comcast's agreement with the NFL Network ended in mid-2009. In February 2008 an appellate court in New York reversed field on a judgment made in May 2007 that allowed Comcast to move the network from its second most distributed tier to the company's sports tier. The New York s Supreme Court, Appellate Division, First Department, ruled the language "concerning additional programming package was ambiguous and that neither party has established that its interpretation of the relevant contracts is a matter of law."
NFL Network later filed a discrimination case against Comcast with the FCC, claiming that since Comcast doesn't charge extra for its owned and operated sports channels Versus (now NBC Sports Network) and The Golf Channel, it's unfair to charge extra for NFL Network. On October 10, 2008, the FCC ruled as follows:
"In the Second Report and Order, the Commission emphasized that the statute does not explicitly prohibit multichannel distributors from acquiring a financial interest or exclusive rights that are otherwise permissible, and thus, that multichannel distributors [may] negotiate for, but not insist upon such benefits in exchange for carriage on their systems. The Commission stated, however, that ultimatums, intimidation, conduct that amounts to exertion of pressure beyond good faith negotiations, or behavior that is tantamount to an unreasonable refusal to deal with a vendor who refuses to grant financial interests or exclusivity rights for carriage, should be considered examples of behavior that violates the prohibitions set forth in Section 616. We find that the NFL has presented sufficient evidence to make a prima facie showing that Comcast indirectly and improperly demanded a financial interest in the NFL s programming in exchange for carriage. We further find that the pleadings and documentation present several factual disputes as to whether Comcast s retiring of the NFL Network is the result of Comcast s failure to obtain a financial interest in the NFL s programming. Accordingly, we direct an Administrative Law Judge to hold a hearing, issue a recommended decision on the facts underlying the financial interest claim and a recommended remedy, if necessary, and then return the matter to the Commission within 60 days."
FCC program access complaint
Comcast's trial about the NFL Network's program access complaint with the FCC began on April 14, 2009. At issue was whether Comcast's placement of the NFL Network on a digital sports tier ("Sports Entertainment Package") represented discrimination prevented by the 1992 Cable Act.
In April 2009, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts testified that Comcast was willing to move the channel from the Sports Entertainment Package to a lower priced base package if the subscriber fee was reduced to 25 cents per month. NFL Network charged 75 per month. He claimed Comcast saves $50 million a year in license fees by leaving the channel on its Sports Package, which leads to savings for its customers. On May 19, 2009 it was announced that a deal had been reached to move the channel to its "Digital Classic" tier.
Low customer satisfaction levels
In 2004 and 2007, the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) survey found that Comcast had the worst customer satisfaction rating of any company or government agency in the country, including the Internal Revenue Service. However, the ACSI indicates that almost half of all cable customers (regardless of company) have registered complaints, and that cable is the only industry to score below 60 in the ACSI. Comcast's Customer Service Rating by the ACSI surveys indicate that the company's customer service has not improved since the surveys began in 2001. Analysis of the surveys states that "Comcast is one of the lowest scoring companies in ACSI. As its customer satisfaction eroded by 7% over the past year, revenue increased by 12%." The ACSI analysis also addresses this contradiction, stating that "Such pricing power usually comes with some level of monopoly protection and most cable companies have little competition at the local level. This also means that a cable company can do well financially even though its customers are not particularly satisfied." In 2009 Comcast rebounded on its ACSI rating for television and Internet services, moving ahead of Charter Communications and into a tie with Time Warner Cable.
Comcast service van, Ypsilanti Township, Michigan
Within the Cable Television needs assessment report for the city of Fort Collins, Colorado, February 10, 2004 which was required for Comcast's franchise renewal the city's independent consultant found:
"Approximately 62% of the respondents, though, were very dissatisfied (along with another 25% who were dissatisfied) with the cost of cable television service."
"A majority of the respondents were satisfied with the friendliness and courtesy of customer service personnel. Overall, approximately 43% of the respondents rated the cable company's performance as fair, 30% regarded it as poor and another 30% rated the cable company's performance as good."
While Comcast does operate some of its own customer service call centers, it also outsources customer service and some technical support to Convergys Inc and until recently Transcom WorldWide, both third party call center companies.
On October 1, 2008, J.D. Power and Associates published its annual customer satisfaction survey for the nation's top 10 largest cable and satellite television providers. Comcast scored in the bottom 5 for each region of the United States, including 10th in the East Region. One of the largest internet based consumer-review services, Rateitall.com reports the average consumer review of Comcast as 1.7 out of 5 stars, based on a total of 409 reviews to date (2010).
Comcast has made efforts to improve customer satisfaction, including the Comcast Cares Digital Team. The Comcast Cares Digital Team began when then Customer Service Manager Frank Eliason decided Twitter would be an ideal way to communicate with customers.
Customer service after Hurricane Ike
Shortly after Hurricane Ike hit the Houston, Texas area in 2008, customers received bills and later collection notices for unreturned equipment that was destroyed during the storm. One customer reported a $931 bill which included a $66 credit for interrupted phone service, but also included $1000 charge for not returning her rented DVR, Cable Modem, and other equipment. Comcast responses differed after the storm, with some Customer Care agents telling customers to file with their insurance providers, and other agents advising customers to return their equipment, even if it was ruined or moldy.
In 2006, Comcast implemented measures using Sandvine hardware which sends forged TCP RST (reset) packets, disrupting multiple protocols used by peer-to-peer file sharing networks. This prevented most Comcast users from uploading files.
In August 2007, TorrentFreak reported that Comcast had been preventing BitTorrent users from seeding files. In October 2007, the Associated Press reported that Comcast "actively interferes with attempts by some of its high-speed Internet subscribers to share files online, a move that runs counter to the tradition of treating all types of Net traffic equally." In November 2007, Comcast's limiting of torrent applications was confirmed by a study conducted by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, in which public domain literature is distributed over peer-to-peer networks. Analysis of the EFF study found "strong evidence that Comcast is using packet-forging to disrupt peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing on their network". The studies showed that Comcast prevents distribution of files over peer-to-peer networks by sending a RST packet under the guise of the end user, and denying the connection, which effectively blocks the user from seeding over BitTorrent. Legal controversy arises because instead of simple filtering, Comcast is sending RST packets to Comcast customers, pretending to be the host user at the other end of the BitTorrent connection. Comcast's BitTorrent throttling is a partnership with Sandvine.
Comcast uses RST packets on groupware applications that have nothing to do with file sharing. A Lotus Notes messaging engineer noticed strange behavior with Lotus Notes dropping emails when hooked up to a Comcast connection and verified Comcast's reset packets are the culprit. A lawsuit, Hart v. Comcast, was filed accusing Comcast of false advertising and other unfair trade practices for allegedly advertising unlimited high-speed Internet access while working to restrict their customers' usage of the Internet.
In 2007, Comcast customers reported a sporadic inability to use Google, because forged RST packets interfered with HTTP access to google.com, which has further angered users.
In January 2008, the FCC announced that it would investigate complaints that Comcast "actively interferes with Internet traffic as its subscribers try to share files online". Comcast admitted they paid people to hold seats to pack the 25 February 2008 FCC hearing. The FCC stated it expected to rule on the issue by June 30, 2008. Comcast and BitTorrent Inc. agreed in late March 2008 to work together in a collaborative effort that will leave the network provider to reconfigure its network to manage traffic in a more protocol-agnostic way. Implementation was projected for late 2008.
Prior to implementation of Comcast's agreements with BitTorrent, Inc., Comcast was continuing to limit bandwidth available to peer to peer applications. In April 2008, Comcast proposed a "P2P Bill of Rights and Responsibilities" to address potential copyright infringement by users of peer to peer applications, but some argued that this is an attempt by Comcast to strengthen its traffic management capability rather than fight copyright infringement.
In August 2008 the FCC stated that Comcast's network management was unreasonable and that Comcast must terminate the use of its discriminatory network management by the end of the year. (File no: EB-08-IH-1518). On January 18, 2009, after reconfiguring their traffic management regime, Comcast was asked by the FCC to address their alleged throttling of VoIP customers. Comcast complied with the order and appealed. On June 6, 2010, the District Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia vacated the order in Comcast Corp. v. FCC.
There is a current ongoing dispute about access to Netflix from inside the Comcast network. "On November 19, 2010, Comcast informed Level 3 that, for the first time, it will demand a recurring fee from Level 3 for additional bandwidth, to keep up with unprecedented customer demand, to transmit Internet online movies and other content to Comcast's customers who request such content, in order to cover infrastructure costs." Level 3 asked Comcast for an additional 200 Gbit/s access to their network at no additional cost, that would offset the long-standing contract between the two companies that as long as each uses roughly the same amount of bandwidth of each others services, that neither would be charged. Comcast has given Level 3 increased bandwidth while they try to work out the details. This has caused over 110,000 people to sign a petition.
Comcast spends millions of dollars annually on government relationships. Comcast employs the spouses, sons and daughters of mayors, councilmen, commissioners, and other officials to assure its continued preferred market allocations.
Comcast occasionally lobbies against " la carte" bills that would give consumers the option to purchase individual channels rather than a broad tier of programming. Although they claim the reason for this is to keep customer costs lower, these issues continue to garner attention from state governments, the United States Congress and former Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin J. Martin.
The FCC's decision to sanction Comcast for its 2007 P2P blocking was overruled on April 6, 2010 by the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit. The question before the court was whether the FCC had the legal authority to "regulate an Internet service provider's network management practice." According to a three-judge panel, "the Commission has failed to make that showing" and the FCC's order against Comcast is tossed.
HDTV claim and quality
Comcast has started transmitting three HD channels per Quadrature Amplitude Modulation (QAM) carrier, rather than two per QAM like some other video service providers. Though more cost effective, this additional compression has been noticed and measured by some customers as a reduction in the quality of broadcasts. Comcast claims to have more HD choices than DirecTV by including Comcast's on-demand and pay-per-view assets. Each HD on-demand program is counted as an HD "choice" by Comcast.
Signal intrusion and accidental transmission of pornography
On May 1, 2007, during a broadcast of the preschool program Handy Manny, Comcast had briefly replaced the program on Disney Channel's cable channel assignment with hard-core pornography for subscribers in Lincroft, New Jersey. Comcast's response to the complaints that ensued from the incident claimed that "We are continuing to investigate the root cause of the incident." A spokesperson for Disney Channel said in a statement "We value the trust that parents have in Disney Channel and our programming... and certainly take [Tuesday's] regrettable programming disruption in New Jersey extremely seriously."
On February 7, 2008, Comcast subscribers in Nashville, Tennessee also saw pornography via the cable provider on Cartoon Network. The incident which happened in the early morning hours, was broadcast for at least an hour. Vice president of Nashville's Comcast provider, John Gauder apologized and stated "We apologize for any inconvenience some of our Comcast cable TV customers in Middle Tennessee experienced Thursday as a result of some highly unusual issues ... It appears that a subscription movie channel was inadvertently shown on other channels which normally carry news, sports, children's and other entertainment programming We are taking the appropriate steps to ensure that this highly unusual incident does not happen again." Comcast said that engineers thought they had fixed the glitch which occurred on multiple cable channels at midnight earlier that night, but the error reappeared at around 4 a.m., when the cable company decided to remove the channels from the lineup.
On February 1, 2009 during Super Bowl XLIII, Comcast's transmission of NBC affiliate KVOA (channel 4) in Tucson, Arizona was interrupted for approximately 20 seconds replacing the telecast of the game via NBC with soft-core porn from the adult pay-per-view channel Shorteez. This accidental display affected Comcast's analog cable subscribers in parts of the Tucson area. The substitution appears to have been made at Comcast, not at KVOA, leaving KVOA's over-the-air, satellite and other cable providers viewers unaffected. Also, Comcast's high-definition transmission of KVOA was not affected. Comcast launched an investigation on the incident with the FBI stating that it was an "isolated, malicious act". Comcast also offered to give a $10 credit to any customers who say they viewed the approximately 30-second clip. In October 2011, Frank Tanori Gonzalez, a former Cox Communications employee, admitted that he was responsible for the porn clip. He was ordered to serve three years probation and pay $1,000 in damages.
Comcast turns on DNS redirection option for its paying cable broadband customers by default. When customers accidentally type and enter a non-existent Web address they are redirected to the Comcast search screen. Comcast calls this option "Domain Helper" and gives customers an option to disable it, after authentication on their Web site. As of January 10, 2012, "Domain Helper" was retired, and replaced with DNSSEC servers.
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