Comcast Belatedly 'Introduces' Faster Broadband To City It Sued To Keep From Doing The Same Thing Years Ago. It Didn't Go Well

from the reap-what-you-sow dept

Back in 2008, Comcast sued the city of Chattanooga shortly after the city-owned utility (Electric Power Board, or EPB) announced plans to deliver the kind of cheap, ultra-fast broadband Comcast long refused to. After being saddled with legal expenses, EPB ultimately won that lawsuit, and in 2010 began offering ultra-fast fiber broadband. But it wasn't long before the community-owned broadband network ran into another obstacle: a Tennessee state protectionist law -- quite literally written by AT&T and Comcast -- that hamstrung the operation and prohibited it from expanding.

Fast forward nearly a decade, and EPB now offers symmetrical gigabit connections for around $70 a month -- at least to the parts of Chattanooga ISP lobbyists have allowed it to. A 2016 survey by Consumer Reports ranked EPB, outside of Google Fiber, as the only ISP with a truly positive consumer satisfaction rating among the 30 national ISPs ranked by the magazine. Chattanooga's Mayor, meanwhile, has cited EPB as a major contributor to the city's reinvention.

Facing this weird new phenomenon known as competition, Comcast this year finally broke down and brought its own gigabit offering (technically 1 Gbps down, 35 Mbps up) to the city. But Comcast being Comcast, it simply couldn't help but saddle the offering with a number of restrictions. Specifically, Comcast's offering the gigabit option to Chattanooga residents for $70 a month -- but only if they're willing to sign a three year contract. If users refuse -- the price of the service not only is jacked to $140 per month -- but you'll face usage caps and overage fees -- which are only avoidable if you sign the absurdly long contract.

Hoping to get Chattanooga residents excited about the new option when it finally arrived a few weeks ago, Comcast posted an announcement to Facebook "introducing" the city to gigabit broadband service. It didn't go well. The company began taking an absolutely ferocious beating from area locals tired of Comcast's high prices and legendarily-bad customer service:

Take note of the automated Comcast "support" representative that appears to believe they're "helping" without any understanding of the context of the concerns. The beating proceeds like this for an amazingly long time, consistently citing slow speeds, high prices and poor service:

You may notice a consistent theme or two brought up by Chattanooga locals. The beating was so severe it made the Chattanooga Times Free Press, via which Comcast tried to claim that the response to the company's quickly-backfiring ad campaign was a "misunderstanding":

Comcast says the ongoing backlash is the result of a misunderstanding. The cable giant says that it didn't mean to imply it was rolling out the city's first gigabit service. Rather, it was introducing Xfinity's first gigabit service for residential customers.

"Comcast's recent advertisement on Facebook was intended to remind customers in Chattanooga that our 1-gigabit internet service is now available in their area," said Alex Horwitz, vice president for public relations at Comcast. "The service is offered via cable modem technology, which makes Chattanooga one of the first markets in the nation to enjoy this new service."

There's no misunderstanding. Chattanooga locals understand all too well that Comcast has thrown millions at lawmakers on both the local and state level to try and stifle competition, then expected locals to be awed when the company belatedly introduced its own, inferior and restriction-laden product -- nearly a decade later. There's a reason that Tennessee remains one of the least connected states in the union (pdf), and it has absolutely everything to do with Comcast being an anti-competitive bully with a near-total stranglehold over the state legislature and politicians like Marsha Blackburn.

Tennessee isn't alone in spending the majority of its time bending over backwards to please the country's biggest broadband incumbents to its own, obvious detriment. And more restrictive state laws are being passed all the time. And instead of fixing this corruption on the state or federal level, we're now looking at axing consumer privacy protections and killing net neutrality. Because, you know, that's certain to deliver the kind of broadband Utopia Chattanooga and countless other U.S. markets have been begging for over the last decade.


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  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 19 Apr 2017 @ 6:48am

    Such free market, very competitive, Wow.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 Apr 2017 @ 7:41am

      Re:

      This is what happens when State Actors are granted near monopoly status.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 19 Apr 2017 @ 7:51am

        Re: Re:

        Which is only possible with regulation.

        This scenario would be IMPOSSIBLE under Free-Market.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 19 Apr 2017 @ 7:59am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Explain how the infrastructure, cables,fibers and radio masts, are put in place without some form of regulation, or can someone just install the infrastructure where they want?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            That Anonymous Coward (profile), 19 Apr 2017 @ 8:38am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Its called eminent domain & people have been thrown out of their homes and given pennys on the dollar to compensate them because a corp made the right donation.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • icon
              Roger Strong (profile), 19 Apr 2017 @ 9:10am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              Eminent domain doesn't happen without regulations to allow it.

              Usually though, regulation means that those building new subdivisions must install "last mile" cables, fiber and other infrastructure with the understanding that it can be used by competing IPSs, gas companies etc. So that neither a monopoly nor eminent domain will happen later.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              • identicon
                Anonymous Coward, 19 Apr 2017 @ 9:18am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                The last mile is not the only component of developing a monopoly. In some cases an ISP/Telco/Cable operator is not even ALLOWED inside of an entire geographic area.

                Who owns the last mile, even though it IS a problem, means nothing in the face of that problem.

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 19 Apr 2017 @ 8:55am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            I only said "only possible with regulation" and "impossible with free-market"

            Construing this to mean that all regulation be destroyed entirely is counter productive here and one of the major reasons these problems cannot be resolved.

            No matter how much I bitch about regulation, there will be a few necessary regulations. That said, the principle still remains. A business operating the way Comcast does would be crushed in a free market. It requires the heave hand of government to survive and they KNOW IT!

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • identicon
              Wyrm, 19 Apr 2017 @ 9:32am

              Great argument... not.
              This is a standard fallacy. And this has been replied to numerous times here and elsewhere.

              You start pretending that no rule is good, then backtrack to some rules are necessary but only the good ones.

              That and nobody ever said that all rules are good, but you keep pretending that's our stance.

              You fail to address what everyone has actually been saying here: the problem are not the rules, but the corruption that's widespread across the political landscape.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              • identicon
                Wyrm, 19 Apr 2017 @ 9:34am

                Response to: Wyrm on Apr 19th, 2017 @ 9:32am

                (Oh, I guess that's the cue for the other one and his failed quote about "government we deserve".)

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              • identicon
                Anonymous Coward, 19 Apr 2017 @ 10:07am

                Re:

                "You fail to address what everyone has actually been saying here: the problem are not the rules, but the corruption that's widespread across the political landscape."

                I think he addressed it quite well. If the regulation was protecting the infrastructure instead of the government granted monopoly, the free market would indeed work this out. We've created a problem with regulation, and are now trying to use regulation to fix it. That doesn't mean all regulation is bad, and I don't think he was implying that it was. However in this case, it's been used by our corrupt politicians in such a way as it is now part of the problem.

                Just because one doesn't necessarily agree with specific regulation, doesn't mean that one must then believe that ALL regulation is bad.

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                • identicon
                  Anonymous Coward, 19 Apr 2017 @ 10:18am

                  Re: Re:

                  I have already admitted multiple times here and in the past that some regulation cannot be avoided, but it never stops them from thinking and saying that I am calling for all regulation to be 100% destroyed.

                  Those guys are just like fundamentalist. If it's not regulation based, then it is sacrilege. As long as the regulation is saving me from a greater evil then I can live with it. The problem here is that regulation is being used to ensure that we get the greater evil, and they just are not understanding that.

                  reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                  • identicon
                    Thad, 19 Apr 2017 @ 4:08pm

                    Re: Re: Re:

                    Those guys are just like fundamentalist. If it's not regulation based, then it is sacrilege.

                    That is some amazing projection right there.

                    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • identicon
              Thad, 19 Apr 2017 @ 10:10am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              Construing this to mean that all regulation be destroyed entirely is

              entirely consistent with absolutely every single thing you have ever said on the subject of regulation, ever.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 19 Apr 2017 @ 8:32am

          Re: Re: Re:

          You're right, there would not be an Internet at all without massive government involvement. Thank you for insightful comment.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 19 Apr 2017 @ 8:56am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            no, there would have been one regardless.

            You just can't get past your kool-aid drinking!

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • identicon
              Thad, 19 Apr 2017 @ 10:13am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              Yeah, look at all the great online services the free market gave us. Prodigy, CompuServe, GEnie, AOL...way better than that government-sponsored ARPAnet thing.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              • identicon
                Anonymous Coward, 19 Apr 2017 @ 10:24am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                I am not making the claim that it would be better OR worse. Just saying, it would come one way or another. The claim that it would not have come is what was bankrupt.

                I clearly see a concerted effort here to constantly misconstrue and and intentionally excoriate any position that is not on the "approved" list you fundies have regarding this issue.

                When will you understand that by doing this, you only ensure that Comcast wins? You can clamor for regulations all you want, Comcast is just going to buy your representatives from you. You are LITERALLY handing Comcast a victory here. The definition of stupidity is to continue to try the same thing you have been trying but expecting different results. Anything other than Light regulation has proven to only beget that which you sought to avoid! And my my are you clowns not stupid!

                You are easy to fool, and you understand nothing! You are NOT going to win, EVER!

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                • identicon
                  Thad, 19 Apr 2017 @ 4:12pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                  I am not making the claim that it would be better OR worse. Just saying, it would come one way or another. The claim that it would not have come is what was bankrupt.

                  But it wouldn't. We would have had a bunch of competing fiefdoms with no interoperable standards. Unless AOL drove everybody else out of business.

                  I clearly see a concerted effort here to constantly misconstrue and and intentionally excoriate any position that is not on the "approved" list you fundies have regarding this issue.

                  You see a lot of things that aren't actually there.

                  You are LITERALLY handing Comcast a victory here.

                  You also don't know what "literally" means.

                  The definition of stupidity is to continue to try the same thing you have been trying but expecting different results.

                  And yet, here you are repeating the same stupid shit you spouted yesterday.

                  And my my are you clowns not stupid!

                  Oof. Did you just call me not stupid? Ouch. That hurts, dogg.

                  reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 19 Apr 2017 @ 8:47am

          Re: Re: Re:

          The scenario is very common under a free market because free markets trend towards monopolies. Free markets don't promote competition, they promote 'winning' at any cost. Properly regulated markets promote competition.

          Some of the most dominant monopolies that ever existed were in unregulated/much less regulated times such as U.S. Steel, Standard Oil, De Beers, Hudson Bay Company, etc.,.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 19 Apr 2017 @ 8:59am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            "The scenario is very common under a free market because free markets trend towards monopolies."

            That funny, I see the exact same fucking trend with regulation, the only difference is that it is HARDER to fight a regulation based/government backed monopoly than it is to fight a free market based monopoly.

            You guys have dain bramage!

            In short, "regulation" DOES NOT PROTECT YOU FROM A MONOPOLY!
            It only makes them more POWERFUL when they are formed!

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 19 Apr 2017 @ 10:32am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              How you regulate is the problem. Continually spouting an overarching ideology without considering circumstance is jejune and unproductive in moving a discussion along.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              • identicon
                Anonymous Coward, 19 Apr 2017 @ 11:15am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                I see, it's my "overarching ideology" is jejune while your "overarching ideology" is not.

                Great argument champ, here is a more entertaining way to say the same thing.

                Your shit stinks, but mine does not.

                Sorry but the overarching ideology must be discussed because until you get concert on that... then you cannot get anywhere on the subject beneath.

                Regulation is always a negative, because it always stifles free market. That said, once the negative of regulation is LESS negative than the result of free market then we can talk. A lot of people say that free market results in monopoly and that is NOT true. It just has no protections against free market. Well neither does regulation either, as currently FACTUALLY FUCKING PROVEN by the FCC. As long as we can "frame" the usage of regulation as being only anti-monopoly and anti-trust then we have regulation that is less evil and finally more acceptable than allowing a free market to play out into a monopoly.

                That said, it is easier in all cases for me to fight against a free market monopoly instead of a government blessed monopoly that comes with guns in my face when I disagree.

                This entire conversation is about "how you regulate" being the problem. So you were ONLY obtusely redundant followed by a passive aggressive ad hominem attack.

                So fuck you, I can do ad homiem too, but I am not so self serving as playing it passively aggressively!

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                • identicon
                  Anonymous Coward, 19 Apr 2017 @ 11:16am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                  Blahh....

                  It just has no protections against free market.

                  should have been

                  Free Market has no protections from monopoly.

                  reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                  • identicon
                    Anonymous Coward, 19 Apr 2017 @ 1:05pm

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                    :)

                    Now you are actually taking a stance on different types of regulation and admitting to anti-monopoly being less negative than no regulation.

                    From there you can begin a discussion. As long as you post anonymously, the existance of post history is a matter of guesses. As far as my opinion goes, I didn't actually express any. Sit back a bit and let the calmer mind prevail.

                    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                • identicon
                  Thad, 19 Apr 2017 @ 4:14pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                  Regulation is always a negative, because it always stifles free market.

                  Can't imagine how anyone ever got the idea that you're fundamentally opposed to all regulations.

                  reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                • identicon
                  Cowardly Lion, 21 Apr 2017 @ 5:11am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                  "Your shit stinks, but mine does not."

                  Speaking of which, don't you think it's kind of funny how there's huge competition for internet provision in other countries that have even greater regulation than the US?

                  You're 27 posts in on how regulation is bad. Mostly. I think what others are saying here is that the lack of competition is more to do with a corrupt, bought-out system than anything else. And I'd agree with that.

                  reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 Apr 2017 @ 8:53am

      Re:

      Except it's NOT a free market! It's a Government created Monopoly, with the laws created by the company's themselves. This is not how the free market works.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 19 Apr 2017 @ 9:06am

        Re: Re:

        excatly, the free market is LONG GONE!

        But it still does not stop the retards from using it as a scapegoat! But that is what you get from a bunch of religious zealots.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 19 Apr 2017 @ 7:03am

    That's why they have to fight tooth and nail against laws, regulations or the repeal of both that would enable more competition. If the market becomes truly competitive Crapcast and friends would quickly go bankrupt.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Sasparilla, 19 Apr 2017 @ 8:08am

      Re:

      The problem with that theory is that no market stays competitive - the winners always choke off the losers - increasing the winners profits - until you wind up with a monopoly or near monopoly environment in the end...

      The solution isn't to have no legislation...its to take the corruption out of the legislative environment - which these same bad guys desperately don't want. JMHO....

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 19 Apr 2017 @ 10:33am

        Re: Re:

        "The solution isn't to have no legislation...its to take the corruption out of the legislative environment "

        I for one would like to know when our new Robot Masters will be officially in charge! That is the only way the above will ever take place.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 19 Apr 2017 @ 10:54am

        Re: Re:

        In the ISP industry the problem is also some markets are simply too small for it to even be worth building the infrastructure to offer high speed Internet.

        The larger the land area you're talking about, and the less people that live there, the less profitable it is to build the infrastructure. This is another reason why rural areas tend to have sucky Internet connections.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 19 Apr 2017 @ 11:19am

          Re: Re: Re:

          that should be a problem of cost then.

          Not if you can rid of the business from owning any of the infrastructure. Once we have public ownership of that, then this cost goes away. It is the ONLY viable way to solve the problem that I can think of.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 19 Apr 2017 @ 1:05pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Public ownership does not eliminate the problem of cost, it just puts in on the taxpayer, and makes it a political football.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ed (profile), 19 Apr 2017 @ 7:41am

    Where's the obligatory photo of Marsha Blackburn leaving AT&T's offices in the dead of night, wiping her mouth and chin?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Apr 2017 @ 7:43am

    Marsha Blackburn you are a worthless parasite.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Apr 2017 @ 8:18am

    God bless those pro-business, anti-regulation lawmakers. Keeping small government small.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 19 Apr 2017 @ 11:38am

    Comcast the car dealer

    Comcast: Now this car is a real beauty. Gorgeous color, tinted windows, it's got everything you need.

    Customer: ... there's no wheels.

    Comcast: Now now, I understand your concern. 'But what if the paint gets scratched?' Well, I can assure you, with our service reputation, voted number #1 in the industry, we can fix that right up for a reasonable fee if it should occur.

    Customer: (knocking on hood) ... this sounds empty.

    Comcast: 'What if the window tinting is a little too dark' you ask? Excellent question. In that case simply bring it back and for a modest fee we'll switch it out for a much better window.

    Customer: Also, this pricing sheet seems to have more asterisks than it does letters, so I have no idea what the actual price is. Not to mention that line at the bottom about how I am required to get the car serviced here for three years, and if I buy a replacement it must be from you.

    Comcast: ...

    Customer: ...

    Comcast: ... look, we both know you have to buy from us, since we made sure that no other dealers were allowed to sell in the city, so sign the damn contract already.

    Customer: Actually, I don't. There's another dealer just a few blocks down that sells cars as well.

    Comcast: But... what... management assured me that there were no other dealers!

    Customer: Yeah, well while that might be true in most cities, they didn't quite manage it here. Best they could do was keep people from other towns buying from that other dealer. However, given I live here, I'm afraid I'll have to give your 'generous' offer a pass.

    Comcast: But... Voted number one in the industry! Tinted windows! Amazing paintjob!

    Customer: Yeah, have fun with that.

    Comcast: (fists raised to the sky in fury) DAMN YOU COMPETITION! WE'LL BUY THE POLITICIANS RIGHT THE NEXT TIME, JUST YOU WATCH!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 Apr 2017 @ 12:11pm

      Re: Comcast the car dealer

      lol, that was great!

      Need to do one where police are called when the customer try's to walk off the lot!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Mononymous Tim (profile), 19 Apr 2017 @ 3:35pm

    >"Comcast's recent advertisement on Facebook was intended to remind customers in Chattanooga that our 1-gigabit internet service is now available in their area," said Alex Horwitz, vice president for public relations at Comcast. "The service is offered via cable modem technology, which makes Chattanooga one of the first markets in the nation to enjoy this new service."

    Just like them to focus on the wrong issue and ignore the real one.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Se Habla Espol, 22 Apr 2017 @ 10:12am

      Re:

      The service is offered via cable modem technology, which makes Chattanooga one of the first markets in the nation to enjoy this new service.

      Comcast has been peddling their GBit cable-modem service here in Mormonville, Utah, for about three years. I guess that makes Chattanooga one of the first, right?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 19 Apr 2017 @ 4:50pm

    YOU HAVE THE RIGHT....

    REMEMBER..

    OUR politicians ARE ELECTED EMPLOYEESS...

    GET A HINT..

    CALL THEM/EMAIL THEM/SUE THEM/BOMBARD THEM...FIRE THEM..

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 Apr 2017 @ 6:26pm

      Re: YOU HAVE THE RIGHT....

      Sadly the ordinary taxpayer can't pay politicians enough to compete with their other employers' demands as all that will get the taxpayer is more expensive monkeys.

      As politicians aren't likely to enact legislation to stop corporations outbidding the ordinary voter, maybe citizen initiated referendums are the way to enforce what the people need & not what corporations want due to greed.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        ECA (profile), 19 Apr 2017 @ 10:13pm

        Re: Re: YOU HAVE THE RIGHT....

        but WE CAN fIRE THEM, AND HIRE ANOTHER..

        They are Employees..impeach or get enough people to Sign a petition..

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Kevin Hayden, 22 Apr 2017 @ 8:11am

          RISE UP

          Come on guys. Stop bitching about it and do something about it. Start with your local politicians (mayors/city council).
          You need to get them on board and taking a position that the ISP-sponsored restrictions are unfair and won't be tolerated.
          ALL of you need to stand behind them. The mayors, etc. need to get together and pick their own candidate (independent) to run against the Marsha Blackburns of the world in the next election at both the state and national levels. Don't back down when they see the groundswell of support against them and change their ways as they'll only slip back into their old ways once the corporate money starts coming in again. You need to destroy all of them politically and send a message that this kind of crap won't be tolerated any more. Remember, you the people are resonsible for the quality of the leaders you elect, so in a sense, you've done this to yourselves. Now get out there and FIX IT! ALL OF YOU!

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Alareth, 20 Apr 2017 @ 6:13pm

    Comcast had been getting the same treatment on FB here in Jacksonville FL on the sponsored ads announcing new gigabit service ... for $300/mo

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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