Some Comcast Customers Won't Get The Latest Broadband Upgrades Without Buying Cable TV

from the utterly-Comcastic dept

As we’ve often noted, Comcast has been shielded from the cord cutting trend somewhat thanks to its growing monopoly over broadband. As users on slow DSL lines flee telcos that are unwilling to upgrade their damn networks, they’re increasingly flocking to cable operators for faster speeds. When they get there, they often bundle TV services; not necessarily because they want it, but because it’s intentionally cheaper than buying broadband standalone.

And while Comcast’s broadband monopoly has protected it from TV cord cutting somewhat, the rise in streaming competition has slowly eroded that advantage, and Comcast is expected to see see double its usual rate of cord cutting this year according to Wall Street analysts.

Comcast being Comcast, the company has a semi-nefarious plan B. Part of that plan is to abuse its monopoly over broadband to deploy arbitrary and unnecessary usage caps and overage fees. These restrictions are glorified rate hikes applied to non competitive markets, with the added advantage of making streaming video more expensive. It’s a punishment for choosing to leave Comcast’s walled garden.

But Comcast appears to have discovered another handy trick that involves using its broadband monopoly to hamstring cord cutters. Reports emerged this week that the company is upgrading the speeds of customers in Houston and parts of the Pacific Northwest, but only if they continue to subscribe to traditional cable television. The company’s press release casually floats over the fact that only Comcast video customers will see these upgrades for now:

“Speed increases will vary based on the Xfinity Internet customers’ current speed subscriptions. Those receiving the speed boost will benefit from an increase of 30 to 40 percent in their download speeds. Existing Xfinity Internet and X1 video customers subscribing to certain packages can expect to experience enhanced speeds this month.”

As is usually the case, Comcast simply acted as if this was all just routine promotional experimentation (an argument that only works if you’re unfamiliar with Comcast’s other efforts to constrain emerging video competition):

“We asked Comcast a few questions, including whether it will make speed increases in other cities contingent on TV subscribership. A Comcast spokesperson didn’t answer, but noted, “we test and introduce new bundles all the time.” The spokesperson also said that the speed increase for Houston is the second in 2018, after one in January. The Oregon/SW Washington speed increase is apparently the first one this year.”

In a healthy market with healthy regulatory oversight, either competition or adult regulatory supervision would prevent Comcast from using its broadband monopoly to constrain consumer video choices. But if you hadn’t noticed, the telecom and TV sector and the current crop of regulators overseeing it aren’t particularly healthy, and with the looming death of net neutrality you’re going to see a whole lot more behavior like this designed to erect artificial barriers to genuine consumer choice and competition.

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Comments on “Some Comcast Customers Won't Get The Latest Broadband Upgrades Without Buying Cable TV”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Comcast is faking its viewership to screw advertisers

The gimmicks to increase the potential viewers for any given ad on their network is only making their sinking ship worse. The return per dollar spent on ads is decreasing year over year and the real reason is Comcast and other cable providers faking their viewer numbers and overselling their ad spaces. It is a gigantic Ponzi scheme and the stockholders are the fools left holding the bag.

Anonymous Coward says:

is anyone surprised?

But isn’t this exactly the sort of thing that all monopolistic companies do?

Comcast needs to ‘force’ all subscribers to buy its own proprietary video-on-demand service (as well as legacy TV cable) by severely cutting their internet speed if they don’t — or simply traffic-shaping Netflix and Hulu into the dust — because they’ve literally got broadband customers by the….

Now with a pro-monopolist federal government/agency in power, what’s to stop Comcast from taking a page out of 19th century history and becoming the classic mustache-twisting corporate villian that everyone loves to hate?

Flakbait (profile) says:

Re: is anyone surprised?

“…what’s to stop Comcast from taking a page out of 19th century history and becoming the classic mustache-twisting corporate villian that everyone loves to hate?”

Where’ve you been? They’ve been doing that for years and years. Their next step is to start tying young women to railroad tracks. Or maybe to Hyperloops.

Agammamon says:

Re: is anyone surprised?

But isn’t this exactly the sort of thing that all monopolistic companies do?

No, this is the sort of thing companies that have monopolies thanks to government regulation (ie, the government is willing to use violence on your competition).

Natural monopolies can’t afford to screw around like this as any excess profit means there are opportunities for someone else to come in and undercut them, ending their monopoly.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: is anyone surprised?

Natural monopolies can’t afford to screw around like this as any excess profit means there are opportunities for someone else to come in and undercut them, ending their monopoly.

Could you perhaps define ‘natural monopoly’ for me, because given what you wrote I can’t help but suspect you are using a notably different definition than I’ve seen.

The Wanderer (profile) says:

Re: Re: is anyone surprised?

As That One Guy said: this has nothing to do with what an actual natural monopoly is.

A natural monopoly is a naturally-occurring bottleneck on the ability (for anyone) to provide a resource. The usual example is roads; if there’s only one possible route to build a road through the mountains to my house, then that route is a natural monopoly, and anyone who builds and controls a road on that route controls that monopoly.

When you control a natural monopoly and can enforce that control (e.g. through violence, yours or someone else’s), no one can come in and undercut you, because there isn’t enough room at the bottleneck. If someone sets up a toll station on that road, it doesn’t do any good to suggest that someone build a second road, because there physically is no place to put one.

The solution to natural monopolies is to restrict what the people who control them can do with them; these restrictions need to be put in place by someone who can enforce them (e.g. through violence), and tend to be called “regulations”.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Goodby Comcast

And don’t be afraid to beat them at their own game by switching providers back and forth whenever they offer cut-rate limited time specials. If more people didn’t make their lives depend on the ISP’s email address (the reason why AOL lasted years longer than it should have) then that game could be played as often as people churn their credit card balances.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Goodby Comcast

I still had about 10 months left on my Comcast contract. Part of the FIOS deal is that will cover early termination fees up to 500 dollars. My fee will be 120 dollars to early term.

I had originally actually switched from FIOS to Comcast because all I was getting was the run around from FIOS after being customer for 10 years. I actually don’t have any complaints about Comcast, it is just that FIOS recently upgraded my area to Gig. So for 20 bucks a month I will be getting 1GB/880 instead of the 200/10 from Comcast.

JoeCool (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Goodby Comcast

I haven’t had an ISP that provided an email account (or news server access) in almost two decades. Most just started pointing customers to yahoo/hotmail/gmail when they became open to all. And it’s one less thing they need to provide support for – which I think was the main thing; they wanted to cut costs as much as physically possible, and merely providing internet access with no further features cuts their costs to the bone.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Goodby Comcast

Indeed. I am continually amazed and amused at how many people and companies use ISP provided email addresses. Don’t they understand why those addresses are provided “free”?

If you’re a business, then you really ought to understand branding and get your own domain and email address. Yes, you have to spend some money, but it’s still pretty darn cheap and then your emails will brand you company and not that of the ISP. Additionally, if you change your ISP, your branded email address remains valid and your customers will be totally unaware that you’ve changed to a different ISP.

If you’re a private individual, either grab on of those free email addresses (gmail, hotmail, yahoo, etc) if you’re willing to deal with the issues there, or also pay for an email. And once again, upon doing so, you no longer have any issues with changing ISPs.

But nope, all too many use the “free” email provided by their ISP without bothering to realize that the reason the ISP provided that email address was to lock them into that ISP by making it extremely annoying and cumbersome to change their ISP.

James Burkhardt (profile) says:

In responce to the Anti-Regulation crowd

So, the Anti-Regulation crowd (at least one of which wants regulations, and to call them regulations, and for them to have regulators, but…different, somehow? Ive been guessing having congress write regulations, which I don’t see as significantly different) is going to swoop down at some point discussing how regulation created this mess, and so we just need to deregulate and stop using internet and competition will suddenly appear to fulfill all that non-use.

I want to point to history to show an example of what I think TechDirt means when it talks about effective regulation of a natural monopoly helping competition. The internet, when it was first regulated, was Title II. And unlike the forbearance of the Wheeler reclassification, Title II was applied in far greater force. Notably, there was a provision which was designed to improve competition. It wasn’t anything so gauche as to force the creation of extra phone lines. No, it forced a seperation of the infrastructure and service layers. AT&T could string the phone lines, but has to lease the lines out so anyone could provide service through them. And when DSL came about, Anyone could provide DSL connection over them, with no concern for who owned the copper.

This allowed for competition, because while the person who built the infrastructure, AT&T in my example, got their ROI and maintenance with access fees, AT&T was far less able to use their monopoly to abuse the service layer, which is what we see in the broadband market.

Remember that abuse of the market to harm consumers in why we disallow monopolies. Capitalism creates real or defacto monopolies on a regular basis. There are many ethno-centric supermarkets in my area, but for traditional american market Ive got Safeway, and supposedly a Walmart neighborhood market. IN some areas I have been in, you only had one or the other, and none of the ethno-centric markets. But we don’t ‘break up’ Safeway, we just keep an eye on them that they don’t use their dominant position to abuse consumers.

IN the same way, the issue is to prevent the harm to consumers created by the defacto regional monopolies. And using the laws congress already created could do so. Regulations have value, correctly appplied they provide a reliable, predictable environment free of uncertainty. Throwing out the regulatory system and throwing everything to the courts wouldn’t for decades.

Anonymous Coward says:

Comcast can't fix poor quality from Hollywood ...

Yes, streaming replacements for broadcast TV are slightly better and may be a reason for cord cutting.

Streaming content direct from creators gives a lot more unfiltered diversity of thought, genuine creativity, real communities of interest, and not catering to advertisement delivery. This is the real threat to the old business model.

Bye bye Hollywood. Please stuff your sanctimonious bland crap where the sun don’t shine.

JoeCool (profile) says:

Re: Re:

You don’t understand the modern world at all, do you? I bought Doom 2016 from Walmart a few months back. What was on the disc provided? The installer for Steam, some ads, and a code for the game on Steam. No major game comes on physical media anymore – they’re too big. Doom 2016 is almost 80 GB. You download all major games these days, and they are HUGE. This has NOTHING to do with piracy.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Actually he does understand, he just doesn’t care. He doesn’t think that gamers are important at all and probably couldn’t care less if they got kicked off the internet entirely. In fact he may even want them kicked off the internet.

It’s the same old “damn kids, get off my lawn” argument except in this case, the kids aren’t even on his lawn, but he’s trying to control them anyway.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Again, if the comment in question was actually incorrect you might have had a point. I’ll grant you this much, though; there’s a lot less bitching about Ars Technica, leftists and libtards in the original comment, so maybe you might have a point. It wouldn’t be the first time a Techdirt troll spouted something immensely dumb, then backtracked by claiming it wasn’t them, though…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

I’m not the one who’s eagerly jumped to the defense of Ajit Pai claiming that bots generating anti-net neutrality support qualify as completely legitimate human commentary, but whatever floats your boat.

Techdirt trolls regularly spoof their own IP addresses. out_of_the_blue in particular is proud of TOR usage to repeatedly post his spam, but Techdirt trolls gotta flock together, it seems.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

You realize IP addresses change, right?

Then again, the supposed claim that IP addresses irrevocably identify people is something your side has been pushed all along so you can sue children and grandmothers to fund artists, I mean their lawyers. Live by the sword…

The Wanderer (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:7 Re:

Er… no, it looks to me as if it was an attempt to claim that it wasn’t his because he posts while logged in (with an attached photo) and so doesn’t get a snowflake at all.

The later duplicate comment from him, one with snowflake and one without, appears to have been an accident – not an attempt to prove that the original post with his name could not have been him.

Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

The Emperor's New Clothes

I can’t be the only one to see that Comcast has given out the usual BS/sob story about how our speeds have been increased by some magical number, yet the infrastructure has not been touched at all. IOW, if you signed up for “up to 100Mb a second”, you probably are getting somewhere between 10 and 20MB/s. Being told that you can now expect to experience download speeds of “up to 250Mb/s” for the same price per month… that’s not even marketing hype, that’s downright fraud when you consider that the infrastructure has not been upgraded to actually deliver those higher speeds.

TRX (profile) says:

Re: The Emperor's New Clothes

up to

Which includes “zero.” Take a look at your ISP contract; every one I’ve seen, including mine with Comcast, has a statement somewhere in there saying they don’t agree to provide any connectivity at all, while you’re expected to pay promptly regardless.

One local DSL provider is infamous for providing 56K (yes, K, not M) service with their “up to 64M” package. So far, either nobody has sued or their contract held up in court.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: The Emperor's New Clothes

And the troll falls for the troll. Notice how the OP says:

if you signed up for "up to 100Mb a second", you probably are getting somewhere between 10 and 20MB/s

Note the 100Mb (little b) and 20MB/s (big B). The OP got you good Richard.

When subscribing to 100 megaBITS (denoted by little b) per second internet access, that means you will see download speeds of around 10 megaBYTES (denoted by a big B) per second. General rule of thumb is divide the megabits per second by 10 and you have your approximate megabytes per second download speed. OP is getting exactly the speed he is paying for and successfully trolled you.

Try again Richard.

Agammamon says:

. . .adult regulatory supervision would prevent Comcast from using its broadband monopoly

TelCos don’t upgrade their networks because they don’t have to – government regulation shields them from market pressure.

Comcast is getting customers from those telcos because it provides a marginally better product, because its only mostly shielded from competition, but its screwing with people because it can – government regulation shields them from market pressure.

A handful of ISP’s dominate the national market for internet access – because of government regulation making it difficult if not impossible for competitors to get in.

Yet the answer you want is ‘adult regulatory supervision’ – basically another way of saying ‘if we only had the right people in charge‘.

Regulatory capture is simply a fact of life. Regulatory schemes have to be built to factor this in. Which means light regulation, not ever increasing amounts. The more power a regulatory agency has, the more incentive there is for regulated industries to lobby it for special favors to lock in their market position and for people who are willing to ‘play ball’ with these industries to ignore their duties in favor of personal gain.

Ed (profile) says:

This is not new

Comcast was doing this in Atlanta as far back as 2009. When I lived there, I had Comcast Preferred plan but no TV or Voice service, just the “High Speed Internet”, which was 25/5. At least twice they upgraded that plan’s speeds but only for customers who bundled TV and/or Voice. Those customers were getting 50/5 and 100/5, while I was stuck at 25/5 and paying $10 more per month than the bundled customers for it. Had I bundled TV (for a basic package of around $20/month), my bill would have been about $10/month higher and speed doubled or tripled.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Fake news

Richard Bennett believes that any data that disagrees with Ajit Pai is fake news, and believes that the fact that the bulk of pro-repeal votes were done by bots who spoofed identities of people who didn’t agree with Ajit Pai – and made their objection to the usage of their identities clear – is perfectly acceptable.

The stupidest part about all this? Richard Bennett is serious…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Fake news

So, Google have found it cheaper to install their own fiber, up to and including undersea cables, rather than pay tour buddies for that service. Does that not suggest your buddies are overcharging for capacity, and/or not installing the capacity to meet the demand.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Fake Richard

Look at Google’s corporate network:

By corporate you mean the internal network that their employees use that isn’t publicly accessible?

data centers all over the world interconnected with high capacity fiber and intersecting with ISPs only to dump data.

That’s what’s known as either a private WAN network (NOT publicly accessible) or an internet backbone (publicly accessible). The term ‘private internet’ is just a buzzword way of saying ‘internet backbone’. Which, there wouldn’t be any public internet without companies building out internet backbones or ‘private internets’ and interconnecting with each other.

That’s what’s known as a private Internet because it only carries Google data.

Dude, you really suck at lying. If it only carries Google’s data then it has nothing to do with the rest of the actual internet because it’s just Google’s connection to the internet at large. Besides that though, this is patently false since Google does do interconnection so they do carry more than just their own data. They have to, otherwise they wouldn’t be able to operate any ISP services because the only sites subscribers would be able to get to would be something with a domain.

I didn’t coin the term, kids.

That is blatantly obvious since you don’t even know how to use it.

Try again Richard.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Fake news

Bode is misreporting this story.

No, he’s not. The fact of the matter is that Comcast is giving free speed increases to SOME of their customers but not all of them. And those "some" are the ones who pay NOT for faster speeds but for a completely separate service. If Comcast instead said it was rolling out new speeds but everyone had to pay for it, that would be different, or if everyone got it for free. Either of those two cases would be fine.

But they are not. They are deliberately excluding ONLY the customers who subscribe to just internet, despite the fact that this speed upgrade doesn’t affect the cable package at all. It is nothing more than a scumbag way of punishing people who are ditching cable because it’s too expensive and there are much better options in streaming.

but this is bald-faced lying.

Sorry, that’s you, not Bode.

Try again Richard.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: The lie in this comment

Well that’s a bald faced lie there Richard.

These source links all say you’re wrong:




Sounds like only subscribers who subscribe to internet AND TV are getting the free upgrade to me.

Try again Richard.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: The lie in this comment

You know who Richard reminds me of? He reminds me of John Steele, while he was observing the Sunlust trial where Mark Lutz was getting his ass torn apart by the judge, since Lutz couldn’t answer any of the judge’s questions about the business despite supposedly being in charge. Steele stood up and said “Hi, I’m absolutely not involved in this case at all but here’s my two cents in a bid to convince you Lutz is totally legit. Trust me!”

Funny how someone who claimed to be completely unrelated to ISPs shilling for net neutrality repeal now has such an in-depth understanding of what their terms and conditions actually say, despite third parties pointing out otherwise.

For what it’s worth, John Steele is currently in jail, waiting to throw ex-partner Paul Hansmeier under the bus…

Richard Bennett (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: The lie in this comment

Yes, I have an in-depth understanding of Comcast offers in Houston because I looked them up. You can do it too; just go to[dot]com/locations/texas/houston/internet-service and check your choices for unbundled Internet. Click on “View All Offers.”

The offers of interest are Blast Pro (250 Mbps) and Performance Pro (400 Mbps). I checked an old address of mine in Houston and confirmed availability.

They also offer Gigabit (1000 Mbps) and Gigabit Pro (2000).

As I said, Bode lied to you. That’s what he does, so no surprise. But why did you buy it again?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 The lie in this comment

I have no doubt and (for once) believe you when you say those speeds are offered in those areas.

However, you are deliberately twisting the conversation and ignoring the point of the article. Not only are you calling Bode a liar, you’re saying that NONE of the media reports are correct, including the NASDAQ reports and the news media in Houston. BOTH of which would be in a better position to determine the exact nature of Comcast’s offerings than you.

Now that we’ve established that, Bode (nor the other media reports for that matter) is not saying that those speeds are not available in those areas. Really, you have to be a real piece of work to twist everyone’s words that badly. What they’re saying is Comcast is giving speed upgrades for people in those areas, and those who bundle internet and TV (or more) get it for free, but those who just subscribe to internet get jack squat unless they fork over more money for a higher tier package or bundled services.

It’s not that they aren’t available, it’s that Comcast is giving them out for free for some people and not for others. Comcast is effectively raising the price of high speed internet for internet only customers, but not for those who bundle. People who bundle will not see a price increase on their monthly bill, despite the fact that the only thing it affects is their internet, not any of their other services. Meanwhile, anyone who just has internet, is going to be forced to pay extra to get the same speed. As Bode stated in the article, this is a poorly disguised attempt to punish people for cutting the cord and not buying cable.

Bode’s not the one lying, you are. And doing a really crappy job at it too. If you’re gonna lie, can you at least try and do it in a way that someone can’t prove you wrong in less than five minutes? Because this is just just embarrassing for you.

Try again Richard.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: The lie in this comment

Yep, that’s pretty much Richard.

I also got a chuckle out of his response below where he actually did claim to have in-depth knowledge of it because he looked at Comcast’s offering page for two seconds. I think I might die of laughter.

All this while completely missing the point that it’s not about whether they offer those speeds at all, it’s about that some people are getting upgraded for free and others not, for no other reason than they are trying to punish cord cutters for not buying their dying cable packages.

Richard Bennett (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 The lie in this comment

Comcast already offered 150, 250, 400, 1000, and 2000 Mbps in Houston. What actually happened is the company substituted 250 for 150 in one bundle and 400 for 250 in another.

There wasn’t any substitution to do for the standalone plans because…no bundle.

So Bode is trying to turn a free upgrade into a downgrade because he’s so demented.

And you bought it, sucker.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 The lie in this comment

And a swing and a miss! Really, you’re making this way too easy for me. Or are you saying Comcast’s own press release lying?

Comcast today announced it is increasing the speeds of its Xfinity Internet service packages for millions of video and internet customers,

Substituting a higher internet speed for a lower one without raising the price of the bundle is, GASP, still a free upgrade. Or does the concept of free somehow escape you?

Yes, we know there was no substitution in the standalones because they aren’t bundled, that’s the point. They gave a free speed upgrade for bundles but left the actual price of the speed tiers the same. In effect, by making that substitution in the bundles, they dropped the price of internet speeds for bundles but left it higher in the standalones. Thereby directly discriminating against cord cutters.

If it was truly a free upgrade, it would have applied to standalones as well. This is something they have done in the past but now that their cable cash cow is dying, they’re trying to prop it up any way they can. And one way is to punish cord cutters and try to force them to buy cable again.

Try again Richard.

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