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Comcast and the FCC

8/21/08

Comcast does some shady things.

Customer service is nonexistent and they will sometimes charge you a couple hundred dollars for porn that you couldn't possibly have purchased. Then they laugh at you when you explain that everyone in your household was out of town that weekend for Thanksgiving and ask them to remove the fraudulent charges.

Their technicians are hit or miss and sometimes they just don't show up, or they show up and do a really poor job. (I've had a couple of really good ones, but that's not the norm.) Their services in cable, phone and internet will just go away for no apparent reason, and woe betide the person who calls customer service to find out what's up. Woe!

Another thing that they do which is shady is that they block or impair some web-things that go across their internet connections. Bit-Torrent is a program (and protocol) that allows large files to be sent over the internet in bits and pieces between peers. It saves expensive and limited bandwidth for companies like Blizzard (who uses it to dispense their WoW patches to hundreds of millions of players) and Revision3 (who uses it to dispense their free web programming). Comcast doesn't like torrents and they instituted some code to drastically slow or block torrents. This has been determined to be unfair by the FCC because Comcast and other ISPs are supposed to provide an internet connection that is neutral to those things that move across it. They are violating Net Neutrality (not a law, but it's coming I hope!) by limiting the sorts of files they'll allow to pass. It leads to situations in which web page owners would have to pay off Comcast so that people could access their sites. That's bad. It would be like your phone company allowing you to call your mother, but not Pizza Hut. Or your internet connection working only with PCs and not MACs. Bad stuff.

Now, the FCC has been known to make big threats before (Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfuntion), but in this case they haven't really put their foot down. They say that Comcast has to give them details of their operations and change the bad parts with in a year. What a load of crap that is. Come on, FCC. Make yourself useful. Some people are offended by nipples and the F-word, and you threaten fines and sanctions. Comcast (among others, I imagine) has a monopoly on the internet service in many areas, you have determined that they are doing something bad, and you give them a soft ultimatium like this? Outragous.

Comcast now says that they would remove this torrenting restriction, but they want to slow down the internet connection for their heaviest users at peak periods during the day. I don't know the details yet, but this might be an ok solution. If the impact is minimal and these heavy users aren't paying a premium for fast service then I suppose it's a decent solution.

A better solution would be to take the massive profits ($1.163 BILLION in free cash flow) that they make from their monopoly and roll them into a better infrastructure that can handle traffic without impacting anyone's service.
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